True wisdom requires reflection

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There are mornings, my friends, when after reading the main section of the New York Times, I think life on this planet is literally coming apart: people in many nations are fleeing their homes in terror, crossing treacherous waters for safety and often finding none. Politically, the Middle East is in utter turmoil. Weather patterns on the planet either cause floods or desert. So, the hour I spend in the quiet of our library most mornings is often dispiriting.

Then, at last, I arrive at the editorial page where some very thoughtful writers make a valiant effort to sift through the madness that has enveloped our world. Finally, a ray of hope for the planet begins to appear. After reading one or another of those editorialists I say, Ah, wisdom, finally. At least there are some few who try to make sense of life and offer us a modicum of hope.

So, it appears to me, my friends, that, despite the efforts by some who literally wish to take over parts of the world by force and terror, there will always remain those who are able to think deeply about life in this world and offer us options for hope. There are those, gratefully, who claim that this planet is a home for all and all alike and that, with the insights of the wise, we can live together in such a way that God’s intention for this planet can be fulfilled. In short, my friends, the word is wisdom, a word from the wise that will save us from ourselves. Unfortunately, at this point in history, there seem not to be sufficient wise-minded people who can help us live at peace with one another, at least for the long haul.

My thoughts regarding all this follow from the Scriptures for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary time. The author of the Book of Wisdom writes that he prayed and prudence was given him, he pleaded and the spirit of wisdom came to him. He thought of wisdom as more precious than scepter and throne, more priceless than silver, gold or gems.

In the Gospel, a rich young man asks Jesus how to attain everlasting life. Jesus advises him to sell what he has and give to the poor. Unfortunately, he lacks the wisdom to follow Jesus’ advice. Too bad!

Speaking of wisdom, therefore, might we say that it is something deeper than intelligence, broader than study and education although these are truly precious gems? Wisdom is essentially the effort — even by the most ordinary, unlettered person — to see beyond the superficial assumptions of the moment, to delve into the meaning of life that surpasses the momentary, the passing and fleeting concerns of the here and now. It might be a question of how and where I fit into this world, what are my obligations to the human community? How do I think of the shortness of time and the fragility of life itself?

Involved in this, of course, is the daily pleasure of simply being alone and quiet, taking time to think, to reflect, to imagine how we fit in the human community, how we can add to its created beauty.

In short, wisdom requires effort each day to discover what it means to live with others on this precious jewel we call planet earth, our home.

Scriptures for Oct. 11

Wisdom 7: 7-11

Hebrews 4: 12-13

Mark 10: 17-30

The writer formerly served the Anchorage Archdiocese as director of pastoral education. He now lives in Notre Dame, Indiana.


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