Mysterious, Hidden, and Predetermined
Homily for the Feast of St. Bonaventure
In St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, he speaks to us of God’s wisdom. He identifies God’s wisdom as mysterious, hidden, and predetermined before the ages for his glory. Through these identifying characteristics, we have come to understand God’s wisdom as God’s plan for our salvation.
Why would we consider God’s plan for our salvation as mysterious? When we consider how many times God’s people turned away from their covenant relationship, we are left wondering why God continued to work for our eventual redemption. From our human perspective, if we had been abandoned, insulted, and disobeyed, I doubt that we would have continued to foster any relationship with someone who had treated us in this way. The human response to such behavior would be simply to walk away from any kind of relationship with this person. However, God persevered in seeing the plan for our salvation to its completion. In this way, God’s wisdom is considered a mystery. It leaves us wondering “why?”
St. Paul also calls this plan hidden. Though the children of Israel had come to believe that one day they would be given a Messiah, someone who would free them from subjugation, no one would have ever believed that it would be God in the flesh who would take on that role. When Jesus came among us, he was not recognized. In this way God’s wisdom was hidden.
Finally, that plan was predetermined from the beginning of God’s created universe. As soon as Adam and Eve turned away from God through an act of disobedience, God set in motion a plan to reverse the effects of Original Sin. God’s purpose in creation would not be thwarted by human disobedience.
St. Paul goes on to say that this plan of salvation had to be mysterious, hidden, and predetermined. If God had revealed the end of his plan to humanity, the so-called “rulers of this age” would not have put Jesus to death. Jesus is passion, death, and resurrection were necessary to bring God’s wisdom to fruition.
St. Bonaventure is regarded as one of the wisdom figures of the Franciscan way of life. Like so many who have come after him, he tried to teach us about God’s wisdom, about God’s plan of salvation. Though he was successful to a certain extent, he and no one after him was able to completely fathom God’s wisdom. He explains this through a reformulation of an oracle preached in the 64th chapter of the prophet Isaiah. “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Only when we come to the end of our earthly pilgrimage and see God face to face will God’s wisdom be completely understood. Until that time, the mysterious nature of God’s wisdom continues to unfold like the petals of the most beautiful rose. Like the beauty of the rose changes with every passing day, our understanding of the wisdom of God unfolds with each encounter we have with our God in prayer. It has long been said that the celebration of the Eucharist is the greatest prayer that we can offer. It is, therefore, also the best way to come to understand the wisdom of God.