Homily: Daniel and the Brilliance of Divine Insight
We are in the month of November and in this month our focus is as always on remembering those who have gone before us and calling to mind the day we too will stand before the Lord’s throne in judgment and the resurrection of the dead.
The liturgy during this time focuses on those two events so as you can see both the first reading and the Gospel discuss judgement and the end of the world. The official name for this moment is the Eschaton.
There was something that came to my mind as I was doing the research for today’s readings. Is it possible that one of the reasons there is so much division in our country today is that we lost focus on the resurrection of the dead?
If I am focused on the promises of Christ through the lens of eternal life, I am going to live my life far differently than if I focus on what is best for my life here.
Now if you look carefully at the first reading from the Book of Daniel, you will see not only the description of the resurrection but you will a rather unique phrase. He says those with insight will shine brightly. Notice it does not say those who were celebrated, honored, popular, reputable, or anything else, it says those who have insight. Those who understood the world differently than the others because they are full of divine wisdom which educates human wisdom.
This is of course about the resurrection of the dead and I am sure it is one of the phrases Jesus used in his teaching on the road to Emmaus.
Notice We are not called to be good in the worldly sense, we are called to be wise and filled with insight so that our goodness is a product of that mindset not a mark of our comportment on some eternal report card.
When we believe and understand the promises of Christ in the concept of eternal life, this gives us a whole different focus on the life around us than those who do not.
It brings us back to Jesus’ understanding to seek the treasure that is in Heaven. It means to have values that understand the whole picture of human existence, not just the Earthly picture. It means to act in a way not so that you can pass our human test and get to heaven, it is because you understand the world differently and so you see the world through the same wisdom that Christ taught us.
This is what is meant by insight. It is not about trying to be good, it is about understanding our world as God created it and living from that insight. Notice also that such people will also work for justice, not our justice but God’s justice.
How do we gain that insight? Simple, ask for it. As I said last week, if you do that be prepared for what comes next.
It may require suffering in order to understand and experience the true values. It may require you to find wisdom when all goes wrong. Notice what the verse says, those with insight will shine like the stars in the sky. What else is shiny? Gold. In the book of Sirach, the writer tells us to be patient when we suffer and things go extremely wrong. He says: “For in fire gold is tested and the worthy in the crucible of humiliation.”
That is the method and the goal to where God is taking us. This is why it is essential not only that we pray and offer ourselves to God but we speak daily about our suffering and our struggles with him and bring to him our pain, doubts and humiliation. Never forget that Jesus met on the mount of the transfiguration with Moses and Elijah representing how powerful they were as prophets yet in their earthly life both of them begged for God to kill them so painful was their mission. Moses who was literally in God’s presence every day yet struggled so deeply with the attitude of his people he begged God to just kill him now. Elijah ran in terror from the queen who threatened to kill him for his zeal to end the pagan cult on Mount Carmel. They both suffered terribly they begged for God to kill them.
There is a great scene in the movie Entertaining Angels where Dorothy Day runs to the Church and tells God how painful is her work with the poor, how difficult she finds it. How humiliating it is, but today her model shines like the stars in the sky.
These people had great insight. Notice those who do not. I read a fascinating article on Medium by a Peter Burns. He writes that Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught that the great damage in a society is not caused by the evil but by stupidity.
He explained that it is not when you and I do a stupid thing, but when a form of stupidity comes a group in a society and that group’s passion grows with this stupidity. He of course saw that principle many times in NAZI Germany and was executed for speaking out against the regime but this country has seen it. Of course, the Salem Witch Trials, The Japanese Internment, Some of the events that have happened recently in our country over the past several years including the event on January 6 at Congress.
Those who reject the path to the insight of the book of Daniel become most susceptible to this stupidity. Those who embrace that path may suffer but they will gain wisdom to recognize the damage and help others stand up against it.
What is it that makes you suffer the most and why do you suffer because of it. What is the goal that you seek for which you find yourself in your current predicament? I meet many people who suffer terribly because their desire is to build a great retirement so they work two or three jobs not to keep food on the table but to build a great retirement. There is nothing wrong with that at all. However, if you are suffering terribly, ask yourself why, what is your goal and is your suffering required for that goal. If your goal is related to eternal life with Christ then definitely bring your suffering to Christ and ask him to help you in your burden.
Remember that your suffering will bring you to great insight to be made like pure goal but it is a painful process.
The true reward is not just eternal life, it is the wisdom that leads us to eternal life. Christ calls us to grow in wisdom so we act not just as good people but as people who understand the world completely differently than those just focused on this world. That leads us to be models of his truth to which we are called.
One of the greatest problems with the idea of believing that we only need to be good to get into Heaven is many people believe they are good enough already. However, when we seek the wisdom that God gives to us so that we may shine because of that wisdom we realize we have a long way to go and continue our pursuit in prayer and desire for holiness.