Tag Archives: Wisdom

Gospel Reflection for July 9, 2017, 14th Sunday Ordinary Time

6 Jul

Scripture Readings: Zechariah 9.9-10; Romans 8.9,11-13; Matthew 11.25-30

“No one knows the Father except the Son.” – Matthew 11.27

For Israel, wisdom begins in awe at God’s gracious work in creation and envisions human harmony shaped out of wise, God-centered, Spirit-animated relationships among people. The book of Proverbs personifies wisdom as a woman who is with God from the beginning. Lady Wisdom is God’s delight. She delights in the human race and seeks to instruct us as her children. Creation is Wisdom’s house. She sets her table of bread and wine for the simple and the foolish, inviting us to the way of insight (Proverbs 9.1-5).

Sunday’s gospel draws on the intimate relationship between Creator and Wisdom to describe the relationship between Father and Son. No one knows the Father but the Son. Like Wisdom the Son seeks to reveal God and the goodness of creation to all. This is the way of insight.

Just as Wisdom invites the simple and those without sense to her table, Jesus invites the weary and burdened to come to him. As Wisdom’s messenger, Jesus welcomes the least to his table and his community. He brings among the people God’s dream of shalom for humankind.

How has creation helped you come to know God?

The Wisdom of Vulnerability

22 Dec
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

The Christmas story is full of vulnerability– God becoming a human baby, Mary saying yes to a child that will change her life, Joseph agreeing to raise a child that is not his. Even the Magi show great vulnerability in their star gazing and quest to find and worship Jesus.

Part of an Epiphany prayer in Women’s Uncommon Prayers reads:

If there had been three wise women…they would have asked for directions, arrived early, delivered the baby, cleaned the stable, cooked the dinner, and brought practical gifts.

The Magi’s visit may have lacked practicality, yet the visitors still earned their descriptor of wise. If we take a close look at their journey, their wisdom lives in their vulnerability and faith.

They leave the comfort of their homes and lives. They travel on a whim without assurance. Instead of giving into the darkness all around them, they look up to the heavens to see the light of a star. They show up. They come prepared with gifts. They understand that the child is not just king, but holy and divine, deserving of worship. And they are in tune enough with their dreams to take an alternative route home instead of reporting back to King Herod. Through the entire story, the Magi are open to God’s leading, humble enough to go where they are called.

How many of us, when given the chance, stay warm in our homes instead of venturing out to see God out in the world with our own eyes? When nights are filled with darkness, we often forget to look up at the stars for a sign, for light. We are so filled with cynicism and importance that our hearts can become closed off to the adoration and homage required of us to worship. How many of us fall asleep with a brain too busy to hear God in our dreams?

The Christmas season brings us back to the wisdom of vulnerability. We can choose to be like Herod, who wants to know about Jesus, is worried how his power might interfere, but is not willing to leave home to find out more. Or we can choose to be like the wise men, who are vulnerable enough to venture out into the darkness on God’s provision of a savior, not quite sure how it will all work out, but hoping the path will lead us to the one worthy of our adoration and worship. May this Christmas season fill your hearts and homes with the wisdom of vulnerability!

Merry Christmas!

Seeking Wisdom

21 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Andy Rennie

Photo via Flickr user Andy Rennie

We’re working through Proverbs the fall, and the planning this summer has been really fun. Proverbs is a book that focuses on the everyday life. How do we proceed today? How can we build a life that is pleasing to God?

We’re focusing on seeking wisdom as a way to get closer to God. I’m excited for our community to commit to intentionally seeking wisdom together. There is value in the seeking, and life in what we find. There is an inherent humility implied in seeking wisdom, yet there is also hopeful action.

By reading and studying Proverbs together, we are turning toward Scripture in our wisdom seeking, but we are not stopping there. We’re using poetry, like Wild Geese by Mary Oliver, as a call to worship that nods to the world outside of the church that is seeping with wisdom. We’re encouraging each other to share ideas on where and how to seek wisdom. I love how the Catholic Church encourages us to seek wisdom in Scripture, Tradition, and out in the world. The world that God created has so much to teach us. And each of us, also created by God, are going to enjoy seeking wisdom in different ways.

When we asked congregation members how they seek wisdom, here are some of the answers we got:

  1. Read the Bible
  2. Seek out experts
  3. Experiment with something new, being willing to fail and start more intelligently
  4. Ask for a slice of wisdom via prayer
  5. Be still, away from distractions, and think
  6. Listen to someone else’s (potentially valuable and unique) perspective on something
  7. List what you don’t know now that you used to think you knew to keep you honest and seeking
  8. Find a good source of information (parent, grandparent, etc.) and ask them the hard questions
  9. Giggle with a child
  10. Walk through the woods
  11. Read a really good smelling book
  12. Listen to classical music
  13. Ask worldly people questions they find interesting to answer
  14. Allow the sound and rhythm of your breath to calm you
  15. Hold a newborn

How do you seek wisdom? I’d love more ideas as I commit to trying a few of these ideas with my eyes and heart open to receiving God’s wisdom.

Gospel Reflection for February 16, 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

10 Feb
Jesus taught his disciples about the law saying, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill them.” 

Matthew 5:17

Jesus is a wise man, a teacher, and wisdom figure.  Jesus interprets the law of Moses in unconventional ways.  He contrasts the old and new law with a repeated formula in which he first states, “You have heard the commandment…” and then counters with his interpretation, “I say to you.”

Jesus insists that he is not overturning the commandments.  He is calling his hearers to a deeper and more challenging approach to Mosaic Law.  He doesn’t destroy but fulfills and completes the old law.

Name and describe someone whose wisdom you have integrated into your life.

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Granting Wisdom

4 Sep

Many mornings at our house begin the same way: my boys wake me up and then watch a video while I take a shower. Then we all shuffle into the kitchen, and as I put the waffles in the toaster, the brotherly battle begins. Hungry and a little bored as they wait for their food, they argue over toys, pulling them from each other’s hands and trading insults. Inevitably this leads to high-pitched yelling and all-out sobbing from one or both of them… and usually, some yelling from me (and a few tears of frustration and parental self-doubt on occasion), as I admonish them over my shoulder to be nice to each other as I peel the banana.

I do not do well with noise; this is just part of who I am. When I am driving alone in the car, I keep the radio off because I love the silence. I am also a task-oriented person who does best focusing on one thing at a time. Once I start making breakfast, I want to finish making breakfast without having to play “Mom Cop” for five minutes between pouring the juice and doling out the vitamins. But these parts of who I am has led me to deal with this daily brotherly battle in one way and one way only: jumping in immediately so that I can end the noise and get back to the task at hand.

It took me a few weeks to figure out that if I wanted things to go differently in the morning, I could not keep doing the same thing. (Each time a parenting challenge has arisen over the last five years, I get shocked anew at how long it takes me to identify that there even is a problem that needs to be addressed or a pattern that needs to be changed.) And out of nowhere, I found myself praying the Serenity Prayer when the din arose:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

the courage to change the things I can;

and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

Praying this prayer did a few things for me. First, it meant that I had to take a deep breath and a moment of pause before responding to the scuffle before me. Miraculously, this meant that on occasion, the boys resolved the issue between themselves. (One morning I even heard my five year old say to the three year old, “That hurts my feelings when you do that,” and the three year old respond, “I’m sorry.” That brought another sort of tear to my eye!) Second, I found that I could make better decisions after asking for wisdom. It felt as if praying made me smarter. Instead of just trying to end the battle, I began to differentiate between different sorts of brother battles and to tailor my response to the actual situation that was happening before me.

But perhaps most importantly, I opened myself up to the wisdom of God. In saying this prayer, I admitted that I did not know exactly what to do in this situation and I asked for guidance. Is my noise sensitivity something that I simply cannot change, or can I change how I react to large amounts of auditory stimulation? Is a little scuffling between brothers something that just happens when siblings live in the same house, or can I do something or help give my boys the skills to do something to reduce the fighting?

Philosopher Francis Hutcheson wrote that wisdom is pursuing the best ends by the best means, and dictionary definitions tell us that wisdom is the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting. If we are humble about our humanity, as last week’s first reading urged us to be, it is clear that discerning what is true and right and acting on this wisdom is not something we can accomplish solely on our own. We need God’s wisdom and counsel in order to discern what is truly good and right for our lives. And this is what we are told in the first reading from Wisdom this Sunday: we will not know God’s counsel unless God has given us wisdom, but when we have this wisdom, our paths on earth will be set straight.

I would love to write that the morning brother battles have completely subsided, that our paths have been set straight, but these battles still erupt from time to time and our paths remain necessarily curvy. However, I do sense that God is granting me wisdom. Instead of just reacting to the noise, I can put the conflicts into a larger context about how I want to act as a loving parent and how I want my children to act as loving human beings in the world. I am making decisions about how to respond to this situation based on a larger system of values, as well as employing practical solutions that did not occur to me before (e.g. eat breakfast first thing). And slowly but surely, I am gaining clarity about what things I can change and what things I cannot.

How would you define wisdom? In what areas of your life and in what situations do you find yourself asking for wisdom? Are there prayer or other spiritual practices that help you find wisdom?

Are there things in your life that you need the courage to change? Are there things in your life that you need the serenity to accept? How can you draw on God as a partner in making this discernment? 

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