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God's Word on Sunday: Wisdom is found in our daily struggles

  • November 1, 2020

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Nov. 8 (Year A) Wisdom 6:12-16; Psalm 63; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

There is no self-help book or weekend seminar for gaining wisdom.

Modern impatience usually seeks the quick fix or easy path, but the quest for wisdom is something entirely different. Wisdom is not information or factual knowledge, but a honed and polished life skill. Being wise means navigating life in this world in a way that is both divine and genuinely human.

Part of this skill is the ability to discern between right and wrong and to judge situations well. One’s words and deeds of wisdom should heal, inspire and build up.

According to the Scriptures, wisdom is present throughout creation and is everywhere for those who know how to search. The most important part of the search is intense and continual yearning for wisdom, truth and light. We become what we treasure and yearn for, so it is critical we set our sights as high as we can.

Wisdom will not be found on a mountain top, but in the struggle and messiness of everyday life. Even the mistakes that we make are part of the process. The path to wisdom necessitates openness to new experiences and ways of thinking.

A dogmatic, stubborn or closed-minded attitude is wisdom’s enemy. One grows in wisdom by resolving not to respond in defensive or selfish ways and by rising above the adversarial nature of most encounters. There is no room for scoring points or getting the best of others.

Many of the traditional wisdom figures in our culture have disappeared. People are more prone to turn to celebrities, entertainers and social media but with mixed results.

Perhaps there are wise people to whom we turn for guidance and advice. Their wisdom might have little to do with formal education, renown or position, but they are well trained in the school of life.

Becoming a wisdom figure for others is one of the many ways that we can express gratitude to God. The same principle of desiring and yearning applies in our search for God.

Psalm 63 describes the desire for God as thirst for water in a dry and parched land. The psalmist thinks about God continually; God becomes more important than life itself. The reward for this intensity is a joyful awareness of God’s presence.

Paul’s letter was a response to crisis in the Thessalonian community. They had been waiting for the Lord’s return for years and now some of the community had died. Some were afraid that the dead would miss out on the Lord’s return and the resurrected life. Paul expanded their vision a bit — the dead and the living were equal, and all would enjoy the Lord’s presence. God is generous and far bigger and broader than any of our conceptions of the divine. No one will be left behind.

The strange parable of the bridesmaids describes our journey towards God and the way in which we handle life. Some are like the wise bridesmaids — wise, prepared, vigilant and aware. They recognize and engage the lessons and challenges that are given to them.

The oil they carry in their lamps represent the wisdom, spiritual understanding and inner light that they have developed and fostered on their journey. When the moment for their passage into the next life — God’s kingdom — occurs, it will seem natural and seamless.

The foolish bridesmaids are like many — drifting through life with little purpose or direction. They let events overtake them and never seem to get what life is about.

Opportunities are wasted, resources are squandered, shortcuts are continually taken and little is learned from life’s challenges. They have not prepared themselves.

The moment of the bridegroom’s arrival was the great crisis. The panic-stricken, foolish bridesmaids tried to borrow oil for the lamps from the wise bridesmaids. But we cannot enter through that door on someone else’s coattails — we cannot borrow another’s wisdom or life experience.

Each of us is responsible for what we make of our life. If we never reflect on where we are heading or we continually procrastinate, we might find ourselves running to catch up or missing out on so much.

The warning of Jesus is for us all: Keep awake and alert — we know not the day or the hour. Treat each day as the precious gift that it is.