Our elders used to scold us, telling us not to get above our station in life. Jesus, in today’s Gospel tells us not to go looking for praise and rewards. After all, we are just servants. He says, “When you have done all things well, then say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have only done what we were obliged to do.”
Our first readings this week are from the Book of Wisdom. It is a work composed around the year 100 b.c.; and it seems to have been penned by a holy and wise Jew in Alexandria, Egypt.
Protestants do not accept it as a canonical book of the Bible; but they have it printed in the back of their bibles. In the nineties I used to meet with the local Protestant ministers who followed Sunday readings they borrowed from us. When there was a reading from the Book of Wisdom their Sunday books substituted a reading from another part of the Bible. All the same, they would always turn to the reading from the Book of Wisdom. They were like kids who couldn’t keep from looking at what they were told not to look at.
As well, they turned to the Book of Wisdom because it is a beautiful book: one that offers us true comfort. Earlier Old Testament books like Genesis and Kings showed no belief in an afterlife, but Wisdom’s picture of life after death is as charming as anything in the New Testament. It tells us, “God formed us to be imperishable, the image of his own nature.” He tells us that God takes the souls of the just to himself. “Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed.”