Wisdom and intelligence are two different things. You can be the smartest person in the room, yet still do some pretty stupid stuff. History has proven that over and over again. Add evil to that stupidity and you can create war. The first reading for this Sunday’s Mass is taken from Proverbs (Prv 8:22-31), and in it we hear the voice of Wisdom telling us of her role in God’s creation—particularly during humanity’s birth.

“Then was I beside him as his craftsman, and 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.”

This excerpt for Sunday’s Mass does not include the concluding portion of Wisdom’s commentary that should be required reading in every military academy:

Happy the one who listens to me, attending daily at my gates, keeping watch at my doorposts; For whoever finds me finds life, and wins favor from the LORD; But those who pass me by do violence to themselves; all who hate me love death.” 

Those who hate wisdom bear stupidity’s curse. Some of the worst examples of wartime stupidity happened during the Vietnam War. A recent book about it describes the stupidity in its title: McNamara’s Folly: The Use of Low-IQ Troops in the Vietnam War. Author Hamilton Gregory tells how in October 1966, the Johnson Administration instituted the “Project 100,000” program. The idea was to find a new source of “warm bodies” to meet the demands of an ever-escalating war effort. The Administration found it among men with IQs falling below the military’s usually required minimum. The result: of the 58,220 service men who died in Vietnam, 5,478 of them were from that pool their government considered “mentally deficient.”

However—some of those low-IQ men who suffered the afflictions of that war also exhibited one of wisdom’s greatest aptitudes: love. In Sunday’s second reading from his letter to the Romans (Rom 5:1-5), St. Paul says Christ’s disciples “boast” of their afflictions because of their recompense …

… 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.

In his book, Gregory describes how one low-IQ soldier, sent to battle in one of the more dangerous war zones, demonstrated endurance and character by attempting to aid a wounded comrade on the field of battle. During his effort, an enemy bullet found and killed him. In death this man demonstrated an understanding of Christ’s most important lesson about our Father’s love that eluded the “smart” people who sent him into harm’s way:

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Those Low IQ recruits to the Vietnam War, whether they came out of the war dead or alive, are among the first in line for an inheritance that will elude their stupid “superiors”: Glory. We conclude with the final words of Sunday’s gospel reading (Jn 16:12-15), quoting Jesus about what the Father has in store for us:

“He will glorify me, because he 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.”

Invest your inheritance wisely.

–Tom Andel