Truly, what we call common sense is the ability to make decisions which are seemingly obvious as a good way of proceeding. It means having an intuitive sense of people and situations; it is a sort of ‘know-how’ which seems to come naturally to those who possess it. It is definitely not something learned in a book, but yet it allows one to synthesize everything he or she has learned in order to use it in a way that is beneficial. In biblical terms common sense is what was often referred to as wisdom because it was seen as a gift which was built upon the solid foundation of one’s commitment to prayer and living a Godly life. That is, it seems to come naturally, but in reality it is the result of a gift that one cultivates by learning to be aware of God’s guidance.
In the Gospel we see that wisdom is not necessarily the same as knowledge. A rich young man approaches Jesus asking what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. He makes it clear that he knows the commandments and that he lives them. He has knowledge of how to live a life of holiness according to the Law, yet Jesus indicates that he is still a long way off from having what he seeks. This is because the young man does not have the wisdom to see that he is bound to his possessions, and furthermore, he is in God’s presence, yet is not aware of it. In short, this young man lacks wisdom. He is blinded to the fact that he is so attached to his material things that he cannot see the things of Heaven which are right before him. He is not lost, however. Jesus, loving him, offered hope in saying that once he is able to set his priorities straight, once he can become less attached to worldly things, he will be able to follow completely and hence, inherit eternal life. He needed to pray for acceptance of the gift being offered to him, which was the gift of wisdom.
If we read that statement carefully what we see is that we really do not have to give up anything material. What we do have to do is let the Lord direct our hearts and minds to that which builds the Kingdom. If we put God first, follow the way of the gospels, pray for the gift of discernment and wisdom when making choices, putting love and mercy ahead of personal gain, we will have eternal life. You will notice that all the things Jesus says we give up for His sake and the sake of the gospel will be given us in a greater way because they come with eternal life. But we need to live the way of the gospel, which is to live with love and mercy: clothe the naked, give food and drink to the hungering and thirsting, visit the ill and imprisoned; be generous with what we have, forgiving of those who have hurt us, open to the stranger and alien, just to the poor and marginalized, and open to our enemies as well as those who are like ourselves.
Growing in wisdom and therefore, common sense, is a process toward which we should be attentive. Every saint learned to use this gift. Why we consider them holy is that they opened themselves up to God’s grace which meant they would have to let go of their bad habits and areas of selfishness. They did not become perfect, but rather, they learned to coexist with the faults and weaknesses they had, offering them again and again to God for purification. They had to live with choices that they realized had not been good, allowing God to purify them as they suffered the pain of knowing they may have acted selfishly. But what made them rise above their faults to become holy was that they loved God so much they were willing to go through this process so that love became their total motivation, no matter whether they were picking up a pin from the floor (St. Thérèse of Lisieux) or whether they were reforming their religious order (St. Teresa of Avila). This is true wisdom: studying the Gospels so we know what Jesus taught, praying to know what glorifies God, and then acting with love and mercy. Like the rich young man, we can learn how to put God first and live a life of mercy and generosity. Then perhaps we will truly have that gift of spiritual common sense known as wisdom.
©Michele L. Catanese
The first painting is called Jesus and the Eleven by Duccio di Buoninsegna. (1308-11)
Second is an image painted by Fr. William Hart McNichols called The Advent of Hagia Sophia. It can be found at http://frbillmcnichols-_sacredimages.com/featured/the-advent-of-hagia-sophia-173-william-hart-mcnichols.html
Third is one of my own photos. This was taken in Austria, near the Alps.
Fourth is a painting called Christ and the Rich Young Man by A.N. Miranov. All the information on Miranov and his painting can be found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christ_and_the_rich_young_man._A.N._Mironov.jpg
Last is an image which is part of a larger work called Viriditas by Fr. William Hart McNichols. This segment is called Viriditas-Holy Spirit Detail. It can be found at http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/viriditas-holy-spirit-detail-william-hart-mcnichols.html