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The Word on the Week

President with an older wisdom

The inauguration of Michael D Higgins as our 9th President was the crowning event of the week. The people had spoken to the tune of over 1 million votes in his favour and with this comfortable mandate he addressed us who are “fragile as an economy and wounded as a society”. Paraphrasing James Connolly, the Republican and Socialist leader, Michael D reckoned that Ireland was “a work in progress, a country still to be fully imagined and invented”. His analysis of our current ills focussed on the crass materialism of recent years which valued the worth of a person in monetary terms rather than their “fundamental dignity”. The antidote he prescribed was to turn to an older wisdom that, “while respecting material comfort and security as a basic right of all, also recognises that many of the most valuable things in life cannot be measured. The prayer service which preceded the installation concluded with the singing of John O’Donoghue’s poem Beannacht, a poetic eulogy as to how nature herself eases the pain of life’s trials and replaces grief with blessing. What has the Bible to say about all this? Scripture would concur that we humans have a fundamental dignity although we may not always agree upon its source. It does not come from our ability to stand upright instead of travelling on all fours but in the fact that we are made in the image of God. Indeed the invisible God became visible in Jesus Christ; “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews Chapter 1 verse 3). It is refreshing to listen to a new President pointing the way forward in more spiritual terms than we are used to. The older wisdom is a pleasant prospect when viewed from our empty cupboard of ideas! However we have here a largely undefined wisdom although the source may well have been hinted at in O’Donoghue’s wonderful poem to the healing properties in nature. The Bible attributes wisdom not to nature but to Jesus: more particularly to his death for sinners on the cross. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God….. Since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. It’s not the age of the wisdom that matters but its source. Let’s hope that this presidency will embrace it and impart it over the next 7 years to God’s glory.