Sunday Scripture reading, Nov. 8, 2020: Wisdom's search
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Wis 6:12-16
2) 1 Thes 4:13-18 or 4:13-14
Gospel: Mt 25:1-13
Today's first reading begins simply: "Resplendent and unfading is wisdom." It's a kind of marketing statement, although unlikely ever to appear on a billboard. God's wisdom is really good, it declares. Get it!
The next few lines are not so simple. The author goes on to speak of wisdom as a person, a "she." If you get up early and look for her, you'll find her already sitting by your gate, it says. What's with that?
The author is being poetic, obviously. He wants readers to desire the wisdom that God is offering, so he speaks of it as an attractive woman (the biblical author, living in a patriarchal culture, addresses himself primarily to male readers). "Get wisdom" is promoted in an imaginative way: "Seek her!"
But something more is going on here. In the author's imaginative ad, the woman who represents wisdom goes looking for people. She does the seeking: "She makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her, and graciously appears to them."
God does not communicate wisdom to us like a teacher of an online course (log on and listen to the lecture). He comes looking for us personally. He wants to make us wise.
Now, the author does underline the importance of our seeking wisdom. As noted, the whole reading begins with a marketing statement. God's wisdom is available. Act now! Wisdom is readily perceived, the author says, "by those who love her."
That is to say, God doesn't distribute wisdom to everybody whether they're interested or not, like an activist handing out brochures to everyone passing on the street. It's only if we really want to be guided and instructed by God that he will teach us.
But here's the remarkable thing. God gives us the desire to learn from him: "She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire." "In anticipation" means she gets there first -- and stirs up our desire.
Before we begin to seek wisdom from God (and don't we all need it!), God is at work to give us a sense of our need, a desire to hear his voice, a determination to seek his will. So our longing to know how God wants us to live our lives is a sign that God is already at work in us. And because our seeking is a response to God's grace, we can seek his wisdom with hope.
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Perrotta is the editor and an author of the "Six Weeks With the Bible" series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.