This Sunday I would like to reflect on two images found in the readings: 1. the figure of Wisdom from the first reading (Wisdom 6:12-16) and 2. the wise and foolish virgins from the gospel (Mt. 25:1-13).
Specifically from the first reading there is this passage: “because (Wisdom) makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her, and graciously appears to them in their ways, and meets them with all solicitude.” Often, and especially in the modern university setting, we approach knowledge and truth as something “out there” – to be attained, but primarilly passive. The facts are there to be arrived at. The truth can be known but we, on our part, have to go and get it. It is similar to going grocery shopping. The other day I realized that I was out of laundry detergent but I knew that there was laundry detergent “out there”. Kroger has it. I went to the store, I found the right aisle (if it was a store I was unfamiliar with I might need to ask for guidance) and there was the detergent sitting passive on the shelf.
We often view truth in our modern understanding the same way but the biblical notion which we find expressed in the reading from the Book of Wisdom turns this assumption on its head. Yes, there is truth and knowledge “out there” to be acquired in life but also Wisdom “makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her…” God’s wisdom is not passive, sitting on a shelf and waiting. Wisdom is active of its own accord. To force the above analogy, it is like the laundry jumping off the shelf, walking down the road and knocking on your front door. Wisdom seeks out. Wisdom graciously appears to us in our ways and meets us with all solicitude.
This understanding of the active nature of Wisdom casts a light on the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. It is worthy to note that both the wise and foolish virgins fall asleep while waiting for the bridegroom. This is not where the distinction between the two lies. For all people, “it is easy to rest on our old habits and certainties, it is easy to be overcome by the sweet slumber of self-love, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the weight of our own selfishness.” All are asleep.
But then the cry comes announcing the groom’s arrival! What is this cry? “It is the cry that arises from the far country of the poor, it is the cry that comes from the peoples at war; it is the cry of the lonely elders that ask for company,” it is the cry of the one who is hurting and alone. “Upon hearing the cry, we jump awake, but if we do not have the extra oil on hand we find all the excuses for not responding.”
It is the “extra oil” that distinguishes the wise from the foolish virgins. The extra oil is the Word of God as it has come to us and been received and treasured in our hearts and lives. “It reawakens us to love. If we do not have the Gospel in our heart then we will not know how to respond to the cry of the poor or how to live a meaningful life.”
Our world stands in need of lives enlightened by Wisdom and by the Word of God – which are active and which seek out hearts that are open and receptive.
Yes, there is wisdom out there to be acquired but sometimes wisdom comes knocking at our own door.
(Quotes referenced are taken from a reflection by Bishop Vincenzo Paglia)