Homily 32nd Sunday Ordinary Time – 12th November 2023
Of all the ways that the authors of scripture could think of to praise their heroes, kings, prophets, judges, it seems that that highest of all was to say of that person that he or she was ‘wise’.
Perhaps, one of the reasons why we today might find this virtue of wisdom a little difficult to appreciate, is because for us the world has probably lost some of its scriptural sense. When we think of a ‘wise person’ today, the image that comes to mind is probably along the lines of an old man with a long white beard, who has spent the whole of his life locked in a room with his books.
But that really is a far cry from what the scriptural authors mean by wisdom. In the second reading, for example, St Paul counts as wise those who have managed to make some sort of peace with the eminently practical matter of dying.
The Gospel speaks of wisdom simply in terms of the five bridesmaids who had sense enough to realise that the wedding procession may well be delayed, such things often are, and bring along some extra oil for their lamps. At the heart of it, for the scriptural authors, people of wisdom are realists. They know the world as it really is. Not necessarily as they would like it to be and not necessarily as others tell them it is.
There is another way to put all that really, a way ever more closely reflecting the scriptural author’s insight. The wise person is the person who knows what God knows, sees the world as he sees it. In the book of proverbs, the author writes, “the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.”
Well, that’s not a very good translation. The word just doesn’t mean ‘fear’. Better would be, “the beginning od wisdom is a submission, an openness to the Lord.” A willingness to listen quietly when he speaks. The beginning of wisdom is to realise that only God can know life as it really is, and so only in his word, in what he reveals to be true, can wisdom be found.
Knowing what to do, in order to make the best, truly the best of whatever situation I am in right now. That is living in the real world, and that is wisdom. But also, never losing sight of the fact that no matter what situation I am in right now, it will change. So never being overwhelmed, overcome, by what happens now, but rather using all of it as a preparation for what will happen then, that too, is reality, and it is wisdom.
It is the crowning virtue, and, as the book of proverbs promises, it stirs up in us the ability to take great pleasure in what God has already done for us and great delight in what he has yet to do.