Wednesday of week 7 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on Sir 4:11-19

Today’s passage deals with wisdom, personified as an educator. “She teaches her children and gives help to those who seek her”. There then follows a series of comments about the qualities and effects of wisdom in people’s lives. The precious fruits of wisdom: life, favour, blessings, God’s love, are intended to arouse desire for her.  Whoever loves her loves life, those who wait on her early will be filled with happiness.

This will naturally happen, because it is through wisdom that we come to a fuller understanding of what a true life is all about and with the living out of that understanding comes happiness.

To adhere to Wisdom is to pave the way to inherit final glory.  “The Lord blesses the place she enters.”  Where there is Wisdom, there is God. There is an echo here of entering the Temple, the place where God is present.  “Those who serve her minister to the Holy One and the Lord loves those who love her.”

In a similar context, her disciples are like priests, who enter into the holy places of the Temple to find God. For God himself is the source of all wisdom; there is only one Truth. As we come closer to that truth we come close to God.  “Those who obey her will judge the nations and who listen to her will live secure.” Wisdom’s adherents are like judges. True Wisdom gives one criteria by which to evaluate the world around one, and those who “listen to her” will experience a sense of security. They have a sense that they are in the right place and doing the right things.

People who remain faithful to God’s call – especially as it comes to us through the Word of God – will continually seek to open themselves to receive Wisdom and be enriched by it. Seekers of wisdom are here seen as faithful marriage partners, who open themselves fully to each other.  And what they learn will be passed on to those who come after. Thanks to our forebears, we are indeed the recipients of centuries of Wisdom passed on to us.

However, there is another dimension to Wisdom which should be ready for. The search for wisdom is no guarantee of an easy life. She can bring us through “winding ways” in our search for the truth; she can bring “fear and dread” and “test us with her ordeals”. Indeed, it is often through the most painful and frightening experiences of life as we come face to face with failure, disappointment, sickness and death, that we gradually grow into real wisdom about the most important things in life.

On the other hand, to go our own way and to abandon the search for Wisdom and the search for wisdom is to give up the search for truth and the way of love. There is no future there. Only self-destruction.

As we said before, the acquisition of wisdom does not just come from the piling up of knowledge and information. It does not require a high level of literacy. Even the most illiterate person can be steeped in wisdom. The greatest teacher of wisdom is our immersion in life and in finding God’s Truth and Goodness and Beauty embedded in every experience of life, even the most painful.

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