How many times have you caught yourself repeating one of the following quotes?
A friend to all is a friend to none.
The energy of the mind is the essence of life.
Well begun is half done.
Aristotle spoke these words more than 2300 years ago.
How about these words of wisdom? Have you either spoken them yourself or heard them from others?
For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories.
He who is not a good servant will not be a good master.
Silence gives consent.
Ignorance is the root and stem of all evil.
Nearly 2400 years ago, a philosopher named Plato gave those words to posterity.
You probably recognize these.
Be as you wish to seem.
It is not living that matters, but living rightly.
The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.
Those are from Socrates, who lived nearly 2500 years ago.
Time and again, we quote these ancient philosophers, citing their sage advice and applying it to our present lives. Why shouldn’t we? They were experts on human nature and right living. The words they spoke then are still true today.
Jesus Christ was an expert on human nature and right living, also. He lived less that 2100 years ago and yet, sadly, many people pass off his teaching as archaic thinking, no longer to be heeded by modern man.
Not long ago, I had a conversation with a woman who is convinced that the Church and her teachings are completely outdated and therefore, she’s justified in ignoring them. She intends to wait until the Church comes to her senses at which point, she’ll resume receiving the Eucharist and will become actively involved in a parish.
It’s even more alarming that this woman is not alone! More and more I hear similar comments and each time I wonder, Who are we to think we’re wiser than the Church Fathers? The Church has more than 2000 years of wisdom, enlightenment, and experience under her belt, so to speak, and we think we can out guess her in our few decades of life? Somehow, this makes absolutely no sense to me. This attitude that, well, that Church stuff is fine for you if you’re that gullible, but not for me because I’m too modern is not only foolish; it’s dangerous.
We’ve known since the days of Socrates, Aristotle and Plato that lack of sleep will harm our health. Arsenic, when ingested, will kill us. Their centuries-old phrases speckle our conversations and pop up when we’re searching to prove a point.
A friend is faced with an overwhelming project and we’ll encourage her with, “Well begun is half done.”
We meet someone struggling with humility and we think, He who is not a good servant will not be a good master.
We’re in a meeting and concluding a resolution and say, “Silence gives consent.”
We look at the world around us, shake our heads and murmur, “Ignorance is the root and stem of all evil.”
We puzzle over things we can’t understand and soothe ourselves with, “The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.”
But, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” is outdated?
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” is archaic?
Are we really too modern to accept the wisdom of, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal”? Or “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also?” (Mt. 6:19-21)
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a lead foot, and sometimes (okay, often) drive above the speed limit. Okay, fine. I also admit that I’ve put recyclables in the garbage can instead of the recycling bin. But, for the most part, I obey the civil law as most of us do. So, if we obey civil law, why is it that we can simply dismiss the Ten Commandments? We see this most often in regard to sex and marriage, but it happens in other areas, too. We think our 21st Century minds know better than God.
Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life for all time. His thinking is not archaic. As a matter of fact, his thinking is way, way ahead of us moderns. His thinking is all the way to the end of the world and beyond – something we can never hope to wrap our minds around. Ancient philosophers can give us words of basic wisdom in this life. Jesus – and his Church – give us the words of Eternal Life.
Copyright 2011 Marge Fenelon
About the Author
Marge Steinhage Fenelon is a wife, mother, award-winning author and journalist, blogger, and popular speaker. She appears weekly on Relevant Radio's "Morning Air Show" and other Catholic radio shows. She blogs regularly for National Catholic Register and at MargeFenelon.com. She's author of the best-selling "Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena (Ave Maria Press, 2016) and many other books on Marian devotion and Catholic spirituality.