Thursday of Week 32 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on Wisdom 7:22 – 8:1

Today’s passage is a hymn to Wisdom. It reflects much of Greek philosophical influence affecting the Jewish author who treats Wisdom as a person and gives his own version of earlier personifications. In so far as Wisdom is identified with God as its origin, we might rephrase the first sentence of John’s Gospel to say that:

In the beginning there was Wisdom and Wisdom was with God and Wisdom was God.

The writer describes both the nature and origin of Wisdom and begins by listing twenty-one attributes of Wisdom. Borrowing freely from the vocabulary of Greek philosophy, the author next points out the various characteristics of Wisdom and concludes by identifying it with divine providence – in the last sentence of our reading.

The eulogy begins with the attributes of Wisdom, divided into three sets of seven each, that is, the multiplication of seven (for perfection) by three (for divinity). It is, in the thinking of the time, the most perfect of perfect numbers. The attributes are set out as follows so that each one can be looked at and considered separately:

There is in her a spirit that is
loving the good,
free from anxiety,
overseeing all,
and penetrating through all spirits that are intelligent, pure, and altogether subtle.

There then follows some other attributes:

For wisdom is more mobile than any motion because of her pureness; she pervades and penetrates all things.

Wisdom is totally devoid of any deception or distortion; she provides a clear vision which “pervades and penetrates all things”. Wisdom is:

…a breath of the power of God and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty.

The Spirit of God is also described as a movement of air – a ‘breath’ or a ‘wind’. Speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus said:

The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. (John 3:8)

Here there is a play on the word pneuma, meaning both ‘spirit’ and ‘wind’. Similarly at Pentecost the coming of the Spirit is accompanied by a wind blowing through the place where the disciples are gathered. As well, on the cross, Jesus’ death is described as giving out the pneuma – which can be both his final breath and also his Spirit:

Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)

This is Pentecost on the cross.

The “glory of the Almighty” is “the eternal light” that is God. In the Old Testament God is never called ‘light’. Some earlier texts already hinted at the concept of a transcendent light emanating from God, illuminating the faithful or his nation, being the radiance of his glory, or residing with him, but it will only be in the First Letter of John that we read explicitly “God is light” (1 John 1:5). Jesus himself will say virtually the same thing:

I AM the Light of the World. (John 8:12)

Wisdom is a reflection of the eternal light of God:

…a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.

When we are possessed by true wisdom we are already in touch with God, with his power which is his love and with his goodness.

There is a loftiness and exclusiveness about Wisdom, for she is unique:

Although she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things.

Though herself unchanging and unchangeable, she changes the world through her insight and unending creativity.

In generation after generation, she has passed into the lives of good people, making “them friends of God and prophets”. In the Old Testament such friends were Abraham and Moses. Jesus, as the Son of God, called his disciples his friends. Prophets include not only the great prophets and inspired scribes, but all who, by their holy life and intimacy with God, penetrate into the knowledge of his will and his mysteries, and so become his authorised ‘interpreters’ to enlighten their fellows. Among these will be the many outstanding spiritual and theological writers and preachers who have given new insights into living with God and for God.

God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.

Of course, God, who is Love, extends that love infinitely and equally to every single person and thing he has created. It is never withdrawn. But obviously, there is a special relationship with those who open their hearts and respond totally to the Love extended to them and who, in turn, pass that Love on to all those who come into their lives.

There is a brightness to Wisdom that is unique:

She is more beautiful than the sun and excels every constellation of the stars.

Since those words were written, we know so much more about the enormity of the constellations and the galaxies and yet the statement remains perfectly valid.

Compared with the light she is found to be more radiant, for it is succeeded by the night, but against wisdom evil does not prevail.

Nothing can avail against Wisdom, which contains all Truth, Goodness and Beauty.

And, at the end, Wisdom is linked with the loving Providence of God which governs our world:

She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well.

The attributes that Paul gives to love in his famous passage in his First Letter to the Corinthians can also be applied to Wisdom. Divine Wisdom embraces both Truth and Love.

To be a friend of God, then, is to share his Wisdom, that is, to see and understand reality as he does. This is the most precious thing we can have in life for it gives meaning and direction to everything that we experience. It is to live in a light that is never extinguished and against which evil is impotent.

Let us pray today for this wisdom that will guide our lives and bring us the happiness, peace and security which we constantly seek.

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