Tag Archives: wisdom literature

Wisdom

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Everyday this week, the 32nd week of the year, we’re reading at Mass from the Book of Wisdom. The wisdom literature in the bible–Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Sirach– is not primarily spiritual wisdom or the high-level learning of graduate school. It’s the wisdom there in the school of everyday.

Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish virgins from Matthew’s gospel offers an example.  Why didn’t the foolish virgins bring enough oil to the wedding like the wise virgins did? They didn’t learn from their own experience. It’s as simple as that. (Matthew 24, 1-13)

The wisdom tradition insists we need to learn from our own experience of life and the experience of others.  Yes, God’s help is there, but God expects us to help ourselves, and we have to do that everyday.

“The beginning of wisdom is: get wisdom;

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

Keep learning, from childhood to old age; it’s imperative. The search for wisdom goes on daily, whether the day is easy or dark, whether there’s joy or suffering. (Book of 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 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)

The Wisdom of Ordinary Time

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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.