Wisdom from above
by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
Jesus told his disciples this parable: "The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise ones replied, 'No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.' While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, 'Lord, Lord, open the door for us!'; But he said in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.' Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour."
Have you ever met a truly wise person? What do you think made them wise? Do you desire to grow in the wisdom of God? This week's readings shed light on and teach us three things about the wisdom of God.
In the first reading from the Old Testament Book of Wisdom, we are taught quite simply to seek the wisdom of God. On the one hand, there is nothing particularly surprising about this challenge. Most of us would agree that we want to be guided in our lives by God's wisdom. However, the challenge comes home when we ask ourselves how much we really seek this wisdom in our lives.
God's wisdom is discovered by a variety of means: reading and praying with the sacred Scriptures; studying the teachings of the Church; solid spiritual reading; consulting with wise and prudent Christians; pondering God's action in our lives; and asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In comparison to the amount of time we spend reading for school, work or pleasure, how much time do we spend in prayer and study seeking the wisdom of God?
Secondly, the Book of Wisdom promises access to those who earnestly seek God's wisdom.
"She (wisdom is often personified as a woman) is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. ...she hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire." God really wants to share His wisdom with us, especially with those who come with a humble and sincere heart.
Finally, Jesus teaches us in the Gospel a very important lesson from divine wisdom through the parable of 10 bridesmaids. Five of the bridesmaids are described as "wise" and five "foolish." The wise are the ones who bring a flask of oil with them to the wedding feast. On the surface, Jesus seems uncharacteristically to be praising an apparent selfishness on the part of the wise bridesmaids who do not share their oil with the foolish ones. This seeming contradiction is the main point of the parable.
Jesus would never encourage us to be selfish with our material goods. In fact, He constantly calls us to be generous with those in need. Rather, some things in life cannot be shared with another. That is, some of the person that we have become and that which we have cultivated through the gift of faith cannot be divided like a commodity (oil or gold) and given away, especially at the last minute. For instance, we cannot borrow someone's relationship with God. You cannot lend your neighbor the virtue that you have developed over time by the grace of God and the discipline of charity. A heart that has been molded and shaped by prayer, humility, service, repentance and praise of God cannot be divided in parts and given out at a party.
The oil of the five wise virgins represents a person's relationship with God that has been nurtured by a life of faith, hope and charity. This relationship prepares us for the coming of Christ, the Bridegroom, at the end of time and cannot be borrowed at the last minute.
Today's readings invite us to take some time in prayer and honestly ponder some good questions. Am I committed to seeking the wisdom of God in my life? Do I realize how much God wants to share His wisdom with me so that I may attain the true happiness for which I was made? What should I do more of in order to attain this all-important wisdom that comes from above: Ask the Lord humbly to grant me His wisdom? Pray daily with the Scriptures? Study the Church's teachings and the lives of the saints? Consult with wise followers of Christ?
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