Tag Archives: wisdom literature

The Wisdom of Ordinary Time

The readings in today’s Mass point to the wisdom of ordinary time. “Whoever is not against us is for us,” Jesus says to his disciples who complain there are others “who do not follow us” driving out demons. (Mark 9,38-40) Wisdom is not just in our tradition; it’s there everywhere in ordinary time.

I like the hand in the picture above of Bernini’s famous window in St.Peter’s. Who’s hand is it, anyway? A believer’s hand. Yes, for sure. But also the hand of all who walk this earth searching for truth.

“Wisdom breathes life into her children” (Sirach 4,11 ) Like much of the wisdom literature in the bible (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Psalms) the Book of Sirach, one of the readings at the beginning of ordinary time, draws much of its content from the culture of the middle east which influenced the Jews at home and in their exile in other lands.

As the gift of God breathed into ordinary time, the Holy Spirit “renews the face of the earth.” The Spirit’s wisdom is everywhere.



Everyday this week, the 32nd week of the year, we’re reading from the Book of Wisdom. The wisdom literature–Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Sirach– is not primarily about spiritual wisdom or high level human wisdom, the kind we expect from graduate school. The wisdom literature is about earthy wisdom, the kind we get in the school of everyday.

Consider, as an example, Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish virgins from Matthew’s gospel, a wisdom parable, read last Sunday. (Matthew 24, 1-13) Why didn’t the foolish virgins bring along a flask of oil to the wedding like the wise virgins did? They should have known there wouldn’t be enough oil to last that time in their small lamps. And if they didn’t, why didn’t they ask others for advice and followed it? They’re foolish because they didn’t learn ordinary wisdom.

The wisdom tradition, which Jesus uses in this parable, insists we are learners who must look for wisdom through life experience and listen to others as we learn ourselves. It’s up to us to gain wisdom. Yes, God’s help and promises are there, but it’s up to us to find the path of life to follow.

“The beginning of wisdom is: get wisdom;

whatever else you get, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4,7)

Getting understanding never stops, from childhood to old age it’s imperative. The search goes on as we go about our affairs in relative comfort or in times of darkness and suffering. (Job)

The wisdom literature recognizes obstacles in the search for wisdom. We get fixated on things like success, careers, money, pleasure, health, politics, but the school of life is bigger than any of these.

The wisdom literature recognizes too that we’re drawn to a greater reality. “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We’re made to stand in wonder before what is greater than we are. We’re not satisfied with small things. “Our hearts are restless, till they rest in you.”


“Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom,

and she is readily perceived by those who love her,

and found by those who seek her.

She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her;

one who watches for her at dawn will not be disappointed,

for she will be found sitting at the gate.” (Wisdom 6, 12-14)