It’s important to know history and to be aware of the wisdom of the ages before us. We noticed this weekend, both in the account from the Acts of the Apostles and from the Gospel according to St. Luke, the prophets and Psalms and Scriptures of the past are called to memory. It is almost as if from the mouth of Jesus we hear a warning about ignorance of the wisdom that is offered to us. If only the people of Jesus’ time could have connected the dots between the prophets and the promises of God, Jesus might have been spared a horrible death. But we know that we — like our predecessors — often dismiss the wisdom of the past because we think we are smarter. We fail to honor the wisdom of the past and are ignorant about our choices and actions.
Notice the approach Jesus and the apostles take toward those who have lived in ignorance, even if it is ignorance that they have chosen. Jesus and the apostles take time to lead people step-by-step from the prophets, the Psalms and all the wisdom literature to connect the person of Jesus and the events of His life with what was prefigured in the Old Testament. As we know, some of the contemporaries of Jesus were unwilling to open themselves to new wisdom. Instead of opening themselves, they had hardened hearts and tried to erase Jesus so that they wouldn’t have to listen to any new wisdom.
There seems to be a twofold invitation in the Scriptures this weekend. One is about what we do when we find ourselves ignorant and the other is how we treat others that we find in ignorance. Ignorance is often not a lack of facts but tends to be a lack of connection between one moment and the next, or one choice and the next. Ignorance is often the result of seeing our own lives as the center of the universe and not taking into account that we are but one small dot in the history of God’s salvation. Each of us is important, that’s for sure, but not the center of the universe. Let us talk about having some perspective on our lives and our connection to others.
We have all had the experience of believing that we are absolutely right and possessing all the facts that we need, only to find later that we lacked some important information and perspective. Unless we are overly proud and utterly stubborn, this often leads to a humble apology and some eating of ego. Why do we tend to get defensive when a different perspective or new facts are introduced to a situation that we thought was settled? Is something about our circumstances or our life automatically threatened? What is the source of our insecurity that we can’t listen without automatically defending our point of view or perspective of reality? Imagine that your stubborn choices have done harm to others. I think that might be true of all of us.
How might life be different if we made a step to listen first, with an openness to new understanding and even new facts? This certainly might change how we treat others who we seem to think are in ignorance. Isn’t it true that we would like to be treated the same way, even if we are in ignorance? Isn’t it true that we all would like our voice heard, especially when we are speaking from our own perspective? I hope that we are learning that those who are different in some way from us certainly see the world through their own relationship to the world. These voices and experiences need to be heard, in the same way that we want our voices and experiences to be heard. It’s easier for those of us in the majority to have a place where our voices are listened to. Jesus was patient with those who had every chance to learn and grow and still remained in ignorance. He wanted everybody to have the chance to live in the freedom of the truth of His love.
During this Easter season, when we celebrate the growth of the Church thousands of years ago and now, let us offer a community that welcomes the voices of all and allows each of us to become wiser through the presence of Christ in each other. May the resurrection of Jesus bring new life to each of us and to the world.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.