Sunday, January 07, 2018

What Matters Most in this Life is not What You Know; What Matters Most in this Life is What You DO With What You Know

(Epiphany 2018: This homily was given on January 7, 2018, at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Matthew 2: 1-12.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Epiphany 2018]

Sarah and Amy go to the same medical school, attend the same classes, get the same grades and graduate the same year.  Sarah becomes a pro-life doctor; Amy becomes an abortionist.

Fred and Joe have been friends since they were in grammar school.  They are also computer geeks—and have been for many years.  Each majored in computer science in college and graduated with honors.  Fred now works for Microsoft; Joe is a hacker who spends most of his time breaking into databases and stealing people’s identities.

John and Bill both call the local bank on Monday afternoon.  They ask what time the bank will open on Tuesday.  John wants to know because he wants to cash a check and make a deposit; Bill asks because he’s planning a robbery.

Those, my brothers and sisters, are three examples of the point I want to make in this homily: What matters most in this life is not what you know; what matters most in this life is what you DO with what you know.

Sarah and Amy knew the same things.  They went to the same medical school and the same classes; they received the same grades and graduated the same year.  Sarah used the knowledge she gleaned from that experience to help and heal people; Amy used that same knowledge to kill babies.

Fred and Joe both became experts at programming and working with computers.  Fred put his knowledge to work at a big computer company; Joe put that same type of knowledge to work ripping people off and ruining them financially.

John and Bill both found out when the bank opened on Tuesday morning—but they wanted to use that knowledge in very different ways.  John wanted to make a legal deposit into the bank; Bill wanted to make an illegal withdrawal out of the bank!

What matters most is not what you know; what matters most is what you DO with what you know.

Here we see the difference between the Magi and Herod.  The Magi came to Jerusalem to obtain knowledge.  The Bible says they arrived in the city and wanted to know where the newborn king of the Jews was to be found.  Well, once Herod heard about these mysterious men from the East and whom they were looking for, he decided that he wanted the same bit of knowledge that the Magi wanted.  And he made that clear to them.  He said to the Magi, “Go and search diligently for the child.  [And] when you have found him bring me word.”

Both Herod and the Magi wanted to know the same piece of information—but they intended to do very different things with that knowledge, didn’t they?  The Magi wanted to know where the newborn king was so that they could honor him and give him gifts.  Herod wanted to know where the child was so that he could kill him.

Thankfully, the Lord intervened through a dream and Herod never found out where Jesus was.  Although, that didn’t stop Herod from doing evil.  He used the knowledge he had gotten from the scribes and chief priests about where the Messiah was to be born (namely Bethlehem), and he had all the boys in that town 2-years-old and under killed.

Herod had a bad habit of using his knowledge for despicable purposes.

He was not a nice guy.

What matters most in this life is not what you know; what matters most in this life is what you DO with what you know.

We are called as Catholic Christians to use the knowledge we have for good and not for evil.  Always!  We’re called to be like that medical doctor, Sarah, whom I spoke about at the beginning of my homily.  As I noted earlier, she used the scientific knowledge she received in medical school to bring health and healing to other people; Amy, her abortionist classmate, did the exact opposite.

It’s people like Amy, by the way, who often accuse the Catholic Church of being anti-science.  But that’s a lie.  The Church is not against science!  What the Church is against is using scientific knowledge for evil purposes—like killing an innocent child in its mother’s womb, or destroying human beings in order to get their stem cells to do research, or creating human life in a petri dish.

The Magi, as I’ve said in homilies before, were men of faith and science!  That’s important to remember.  They were probably from Persia (which is modern-day Iran) and they were highly educated—in philosophy, in medicine and in the natural sciences.  And they didn’t waste all that knowledge they had accumulated over the years.  As the Christmas story in Matthew makes clear, they used it to do something good—something very good.  They used their knowledge (primitive though it might be by our standards) to find the newborn king of the Jews and give him the honor that he deserved.

In that, they are great role models for all doctors and scientists and researchers today.

And for the rest of us as well.

It’s not what you know; it’s what you DO with what you know.

May the Lord, by his saving grace, help us to do what’s right and just and good and holy in every situation of our lives.  Amen.