Here’s a strange one. A report came out last week that women who go to church more than once a week can expect to live 5 months longer than women who don’t! The study came out from Harvard University post graduate school. Over a 16 year period 75,000 women were questioned and monitored and those who attended religious services a number of times over a week, lived 33% longer than others who didn’t.
You’ve heard it here, it is now official, coming to Mass/going to religious services makes you live longer, it can help you live on, help you to keep going. There used to be that saying Guinness is good for you. We could say also, Mass is good for you!
Without being too cocky, we’ve known that for years, it does you good, it is a blessing that increases the length of your days, that the sun will shine on you!
However, be careful not to swallow what the report says whole, take it with a pinch of salt. I am not really sure that you could measure such a thing and, if you could, is that what having faith is meant to be about, having 150 days more than anyone else, stealing a march over someone. I am sure there are other factors at play in such a study. You would need other studies to support such findings too before you could go along with it. You would also need people to discuss these findings, people who would know about the science of the things and how to read statistics, run their eye over them, see if their methods were ok, see that things they say stand up to scrutiny. There are questions that might arise: Were the women from the same area? Were the women from the same social background? What was their age profile? What was their health history and the health history of their family? Be careful of these kind of reports: how many reports have we had from the sugar industry that says that there is no harm in sensible consumption of sugar while or reports from the tobacco of sensible smoking doing you no harm?
But the thing that interests me about the report is this, the question that is hidden in the question: what difference does having faith really make. Can it lengthen your life as the report says? Will you get an extra 5 months? And should we be looking for this? Does faith make you happier? Does it give you more purpose to your life? Does it add something to life? Does knowing that God is a Trinity of persons and yet the one God really make a difference to your life?
Faith will give you some things but it will not give you other things. Faith can never assure you that you will live longer than anyone else. Faith won’t insulate you from the troubles of life. Faith won’t give you a life jacket when you fall into the choppy waters of life, you will struggle like any other human person to save your life and stay afloat. Faith doesn’t mean that the wind won’t blow on you or the sun beat down on you or the rain fall on you like anyone else. Faith will not fill your pockets with money. Faith will not give you good looks. Faith will not necessarily make you materially successful in life.
What faith will give you is wisdom. It will give you wise answers to difficult questions. It will give you wise words and wise counsel and wise paths to follow. It will stop you from being foolish, indulging in folly and self deceit, if you listen to it. It will help you to find a real treasure that the human heart is searching for the source of everything, the meaning of everything, the truth that lies behind things. The Old Testament tells us that those questions, that striving, that yearning that is deep in every human being for wisdom, is the desire for God himself .
Faith won’t give you extra money in your pocket, it won’t give you a few extra months over anyone else, it won’t shelter you from the difficulties of life, but what it will do is that it will give you wisdom, it will you an answer to your questions, a path to follow in life and a compass to get you there. That search to be wise tells us that there are answers to be sought, that there are ways to be discovered, that there are truths to be found, that there are wise ways and wise words and wise paths to follow. And the opposite of this is that you don’t have to live your life with folly, self deceit, foolishness, to stumble through life aimlessly, to have no purpose or no goals.
This would seem a simple observation and yet something that is important. Seek wise answers, make wise decisions, act judiciously, prudently, discern right from wrong. The easy path isn’t always the right way to go. Giving in to every whim of your moods isn’t always the thing that will make your happy. Don’t give into foolishness, short term advantage, short term goals, things that appeal but ultimately don’t satisfy.
The reading says this: wisdom is the thing to search for in life. It’s the quality to strive to possess. It’s a virtue to desire. To be a wise man or a wise woman is something to look for in life. Not to be a rich man or woman, but to be a wise man or woman.
Today on this feast day of the Holy Trinity, we know that he is the source of all wisdom, all truth, all right living. He is the source of all these things. He provides us with the ability to discern what is the right way to go and the wise path to follow. He will help us to discern, to be prudent, to be wise in daily life.
It won’t matter ultimately whether we get 5 months extra onto our life, more time than anyone else. But what will matter is the way we have lived our life. If we have become a wise person and not a foolish one.