Prudence of Jesus vs. Prudence of the Flesh

(October 14, 2018)

Bottom line: Jesus calls us not to prudence of the flesh, but true prudence, to risk all for him and his kingdom.

In our first reading King Solomon says, "I prayed and prudence was given me." Prudence has many dimensions. It implies shrewdness, good judgment, common sense, caution and discernment. We need prudence to manage finances, moral behavior and decision making. But as we shall see, we are called to a deeper prudence - not prudence of the flesh but the prudence of Jesus.

To understand the prudence of Jesus let's first look at everyday prudence. In Proverbs (which like the Book of Wisdom is attributed to Solomon), the author writes, "In a multitude of words, transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent."* We live in a time that has lost prudence of speech. I remember back in the 90's when the scandals broke about President Clinton. Lurid revelations filled the news and comedians had a field day. I admit I joined the fun but an older, wiser priest said to me, "It's sad we don't have more discreet ways of dealing with these matters." Bingo! We have lost discretion and that lack of discretion brings down our culture and has a negative affect on our children. Like Solomon we need to pray for prudence.

Jesus wants us to speak with discretion, but as we see in today's Gospel, he wants a much deeper prudence. Jesus urges us to make this calculation: If you give up everything for me, I promise you a hundred fold return. I've experienced that myself. I'm hardly the most prudent person, but I made good bet some fifty five years ago. I bet on Jesus; I began to dedicate my life to him.

Last week I mentioned Jesus' call to celibacy. For sure I miss having my own home and children. God, however, has given me an abundance of children, both in Peru and here. I've never owned a home (or even rented one) yet I have many homes. The life of celibacy has not been easy and I have been far from perfect. Still Jesus keeps his promises. It's like purchasing a lottery ticket with a guaranteed win.

So prudence does not mean timidity. Just the opposite. It means to risk all for Jesus. Not to do the minimum to get to heaven and then get all you can while you can. St. Francis warned his followers: "We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh." As St. Thomas Aquinas says, "prudence of the flesh signifies properly the prudence of a man who looks upon carnal goods as the last end of his life. Now it is evident that this is a sin, because it involves a disorder in man with respect to his last end, which does not consist in the goods of the body...prudence of the flesh is a sin."

Jesus calls us not to prudence of the flesh, but to true prudence, to risk all for him and his kingdom. For sure, as St. Augustine says, we must be "careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery." (quoted in the Catechism #1809) True prudence means first to keep the commandments and then to hear Jesus invitation, "Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

Today we want to follow the wise example of Solomon, "I prayed and prudence was given me." Amen.

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*Proverbs 10:19 Another translation says, "Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut."

Spanish Version

From Archives (28th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):

2015: Discernment in Action Week 2: How Much Do I Need?
2012: Faith and Eternal Life
2009: The Best Exegetes
2006: Prudence
2003: You Know the Commandments
2000: What Must I Do to Have Everlasting Life?

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