The Virtue of Wisdom
(Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2005)
by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.
Wisdom is one of those words rarely used these days and its meaning is being Lost.
It is a word that often appears in the Bible, particularly in the Jewish Testament, what we call the Old Testament. It has
a great deal of significance, so much so that we find it approximately Fifty (50) Times in the
New Testament. Jesus spoke of it often.
Prudence is a word closely associated with it. Prudence
flows from Wisdom; one Acts Prudently because one is
Wisdom moves beyond mere Data Processing, the Exchange of Information, or the
Accumulation of Facts. Facts, Information, and Data are necessary for Wisdom, but
Wisdom is something greater-than them all, even greater-than all of them put-together.
|The Five (5) Wise Virgins, at the Right Hand of Jesus, are saved. The Five (5) Foolish
Virgins, at Jesus' Left Hand, are Damned. Click to enlarge painting to see more detail. (By unknown Flemish Master - from
Staatliche Museen, Berlin)
The Eighteenth Century American Essayist, Henry David Thoreau once said
"ÖIt is a characteristic of Wisdom not to do Desperate things". Thatís a Good Description especially
in the Light of what we heard Jesus saying in todayís Gospel Account. The
Five (5) Foolish-Virgins were Desperate; they had not exercised
Prudence and Foresight, and consequently they wanted the Five (5) Foolish-Virgins to do a
Desperate thing. Being Wise, however, they did not. The
Wise-Virgins did the Prudent thing.
We need to always remember that it is quite possible to Lose oneís
Soul. Put another way, it is quite possible to Neglect our Relationship with God, and let
that Relationship Die-out. Just as the Light in an Oil Lamp can Sputter and Die-out for Lack of Energy,
so too can the Fire, the Warmth, and the Vibrancy of our Relationships, Sputter and Die-out because we fail to put Energy into them. This
is particularly True in our Relationship with God. Wisdom,
Prudence, and Foresight are needed to keep it going.
In another Parable, one that Iím sure you all remember, we find a Steward who was about to be fired, going to his Masterís
Debtors and lowering their amounts of Indebtedness to his Master.
Jesus didnít Commend this Cheating Steward for
Tampering with his Masterís Accounts, but He did Commend this
Unjust Steward for his Prudence, his Foresight, and his Wisdom.
The Steward was looking-ahead to make sure that his future would be secure. He took Action, he pursued a Goal, he didnít just sit-back
and let one of Lifeís Tragedies sweep-over him.
Wisdom is one of those Virtues that requires us
to Act. Wisdom is not simply a Nice Reward for being Good.
It isnít a Virtue that just Naturally comes to us. Itís an Acquired
Virtue. We should pay attention to that because we are surrounded these days by Institutions and Structures that we think will
automatically take care of us. We assume that all sorts of Fail-Safe Provisions are supposed to Protect us from our Goofs and Provide
for us in our Need.
In so very many of our TV Shows and Movies something always comes to the Rescue of those who are
Imprudent and Foolish. But Life, particularly our Spiritual
Life and our Relational Life with others, and especially our Relational Life with God,
requires that we take Responsibility for our Actions and then Act Wisely. There are no Fail-Safe
devices in our personal Relationships with others, or in our Relationship with God.
Let me bring us back now to the first words in todayís Reading taken from the Old Testamentís Book of Wisdom.
"Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who
Seek her". True enough, God offers Wisdom to us,
but God does not force her upon us. She is found and recognized only by those
who are alert to the things of God and who actively Seek her out.
Wisdom ≠ Knowledge
School is back in session now. As we engage our Academic Pursuits, perhaps each all of us would do well to ponder a bit
on the Pursuit of Wisdom as distinguished from the Pursuit of Knowledge. Knowledge is one thing,
Wisdom is quite another. We may perhaps be Intellectually well-endowed with a great deal of Knowledge
and possess a great Storehouse of Facts. We may be able to skillfully Process, Inter-Relate, and Analyze facts, but at the same
time be Devoid of Wisdom with the result that our
Spiritual Lamps would Sputter, Die-out, and
Lose their Light. Having eyes we would then not see, and
having ears we would then not hear. We would be Sighted in Intellect but Blind in
Spirit. That is a very Real and Present Danger. The Parable of
the Wise and Foolish Virgins should make us sit-up and take-notice.
Where, then, is Wisdom to be sought? Along what paths should
she be found?
Let me suggest that we really listen to and pay attention to what is in the Hearts
and Souls of others around us. Their words are important, but what is in their
Hearts and Souls is of the Greatest Importance.
Carry on conversations with those whom you perceive to be Wise. Donít just talk with
them, Converse with them.
Read Great Literature, those sorts of books that open-up the Deep Thoughts with the Human Spirit.
Read the Bible, particularly those Accounts in which Jesus is
Wisdom must be Pursued, it doesnít just automatically come to you. It is
not a Fail-Safe device God will use to Rescue you. Wisdom
must be Sought and Found in the Heart and in the Spirit of
God, in His Christ. Itís a Virtue we must