THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE WISE AND THE DISCERNING


Epiphany Sunday
January 5, 2014

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE WISE AND THE DISCERNING

Isaiah was profuse in joy a-coming: “See, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, dakrness covers the earth and thick clouds the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines.” Isaiah, too, was wise. He said wise things and foretold the coming of caravans and dromedaries “bearing gold and frankincense.”

The psalmist was emphatic in his wise prophecies, too: “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” But Paul, in his own right, was also wise about what he discovered late in his life: “the mystery was made known to me by revelation … that the Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

I have doubts, however, whether the Magi were as wise as Matthew appears to have reported they were. They were worldly-wise, to be sure. They knew how to read maps and astrological signs. They could see a potential ruler of some kind in the signs they saw arising, as to travel really far just to pay the child of Bethlehem homage. But they apparently had little EQ. Their emotional quotient was way off. They failed to see the sinister plans a-brewing in the fertile – though anxious and paranoid – mind of Herod.

Hey, Herod was wise, too! He knew how to spot a potential threat. He knew how to plot, plan, and pretend he had the welfare of the child in mind. He even knew how to put the “wise” men in his employ and gave them marching orders to do a Sherlock Holmes, if you please, and that ever gentle plea of a command cum threat: “Would you please tell us where the child is, when you find him?” This was almost like as if Herod was saying to them: “I can’t wait to do homage to my “little bossing” (my little Master), so please show me where to find him.”

Wise men say. Wise men plan. Wise men hatch things up come what may, happen what might. Our country the Philippines is full of such wise men. They are so wise they plan for elections at least three years in advance. They are so wise they get NGOs working full time, with full resources, with full financial resources and funding.

But they get nothing done. Well, not exactly … They do get some palatial homes of legislators done in record time. And did we mention about faked, unexplained signatures that somehow translated into hundreds of millions going missing on the strength of such signatures?

Wise men say. Wise men do a show-and-tell. This was what Isaiah did. And so did Jeremiah, and Amos, and Ezekiel. They tell it like it is. But even wiser men know what to say and when to say it. Like the corrupt kings of Israel, who consorted with strange and foreign gods and turned them into idols. They walked out on the real God who revealed and showed Himself with His mighty deeds!

Wiser men know how to turn problems into opportunities. Wise, but ultimately clueless magi from the east were simply out to make a touristic jaunt with a twist of a pilgrimage to pay homage to one they believed had the future in his hands. But some wiser fox turned them into drones – with the order to go out in search for the paranoid King’s most wanted child dead or alive, preferably deader than dead!

Wise men say. Wise men do. But today, the feast of the Epiphany, saying and doing must be based on seeing the right things and seeing them rightly for what they are.

It is not wisdom to only say the right things. I don’t become a good priest just because I can cook up a good homily in no time … “Look Ma! … no singing; no dancing!” Nor is it wisdom to only do the right things. Herod was darn right about nipping a problem in the bud. Cut it out before it takes root. Kill the boy before he can tell the difference between being a lowly carpenter and being a much-sought-after chairman of the Board. Or a King, for that matter!

No, I’d much rather be discerning dutifully and deciding rightly! The old saying says “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Fools do not discern rightly, and because of this, they also don’t decide rightly.

Today, Solemnity of the Epiphany, is a day dedicated to wise men: men who say the right things and men who also do the right things. Both are not necessarily the best thing, when seen from the point of view of God. Managers, they say, do the right things; and leaders do them rightly.

We have a plethora of them in and out of government. We have self-proclaimed wise men, wiser than Herod, everytime elections come around, but they are just as equally, if not more corrupt, than Herod. How else explain the fact that we still the sick man of Asia in more ways than one? And that we are among the highest in corruption in all the world?

We need to take things notches higher … We need to be more than wise. We need to be discerning. We need to see beyond what people say and promise, and go beyond mere show-business acumen, and potential to become the next heart-stopper idol of the ignorant masses.

Isaiah did it. St. Paul clinched it. The Magi, though not street-wise, eventually saw beyond the ruse of the brilliant, but scheming Herod. They took the path less travelled by. They changed route back home. And that spelled the difference between the worldly wise and the spiritually wise. They discerned well and decided accordingly.

And the glory of the Lord shone upon the world, forever and ever!

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