Boastfulness is a luxury that seldom lends comfort—not even to the boaster, ultimately. A boast is often made at someone else’s expense. I’ve been guilty of enjoying sweet flattery without acknowledging others who might have deserved a share of that confection. That’s a quiet form of boasting. Later, thinking back on my glory gluttony, I imagined how sharing that flattery might have done those others some good. With that realization I reverted back to my true place in God’s universe—in the tiniest space of it.
From that perspective, this Sunday’s responsorial psalm has a special resonance (Ps 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9):
When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place — What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?
Rather than sugary flattery to feed my ego, what I truly need to sustain me while occupying my small space in God’s creation is wisdom. That gift would nip any selfish boasting in the bud because it acts as a constant homing device for me in that universe—as constant as the North Star. Wisdom is the beacon that guided the psalmist to ask that heartfelt question about mankind. Wisdom existed before the psalms, even before humanity itself. It is the very spirit of God, and its full expression cannot be contained. It resulted in all of creation, culminating with humanity—in whom wisdom finds an earthly home, according to God’s will, as wisdom teaches us in our first reading from Proverbs (Prv 8:22-31):
I was his delight day by day, playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the human race.”
Unfortunately, as I mentioned about my own experience with it, wisdom can be evicted from its human host to make room for foolish boasting. Fortunately, even the spirit of wisdom can refine boastfulness into a more precious commodity when combined with praise for its divine partnership with God the Father. This brand of boasting is an invitation to others, not a diminution of them, as St. Paul demonstrates in this Sunday’s second reading (Rom 5:1-5):
… we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Paul received the spirit of wisdom from his Master, who inherited it from his Father, who has always hosted it. In pouring it out for his disciples he bequeathed His truth to all of us, as Jesus says in this Sunday’s gospel:
[“The spirit of truth] will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”
We share immense riches with Jesus by our shared sonship! Proclaiming that boast is not just a luxury, it’s a necessity, and must be given voice so that others may find a home under its protection.