The Spirit of Wisdom
The Spirit of Wisdom

The Spirit of Wisdom

Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time. Fr Martin Ganeri relates the Wisdom of God to the teachings of Christ.

But we impart a secret wisdom, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. (1 Corinthians 2:7)

In the second reading for this Sunday, taken from the first letter to the Corinthians, St Paul speaks of the wisdom of God that has been revealed to us. And he speaks of this wisdom as something that will bring about our glory, a glory that God has predestined for us. What does he mean by this?

When we think about wisdom in our ordinary life we think about a kind of knowledge. Not just a knowledge of facts, not just a knowledge of many things. Someone can be very knowledgeable about many different subjects, but we do not necessarily call that person wise. No, when we say someone is wise, we mean that someone has a deeper insight into something, a knowledge into the way things really are, an important type of knowledge.

And, when St Paul speaks of the wisdom that has been revealed to us and which will bring about our glory, he certainly has this deeper kind of insight in mind. But he also has in mind the way wisdom is spoken about in the Bible.

In the Bible there are a number of books of wisdom: the books of Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes and also the book of Ecclesiasticus, from which the first reading for this Sunday is taken. In these books wisdom is depicted as a kind of right order that is to be found in the world as created by God, a right order in nature and a right order in human life. Wisdom is the rule for a successful and happy life that God has revealed to human beings, revealed in the natural world, revealed to human minds, as they search out how to live and how to live well as God wants them to do so.

The wisdom taught by the Bible is, then, a kind of deep insight into the way things are, a deep insight that serves as a rule, a guide, for knowing how to live well, to be successful and to flourish as human beings, to be happy and fulfilled, to live as God wants us to live. And God wants us to flourish and to be happy as human beings.

We choose to live according to this wisdom or not. As the passage from the book of Ecclesiasticus puts it:

Before a man are life and death, and whichever he chooses will be given to him. For great is the wisdom of the Lord. (Ecclesiasticus 15: 17-18)

And yet there is even more to the wisdom about which St Paul speaks than this. For St Paul has also in mind the wisdom that is revealed to us in Christ.

Christ is the embodiment of God’s wisdom. It is Christ who reveals to us the deep insight into the reality of things, who reveals to us the right way of living, the path we should follow if we really want to be happy and to flourish as men and women.

And it is this wisdom that Christ reveals to us in the Sermon on the Mount which is recorded in the Gospel of St Matthew and which we continue to read though this Sunday. The Sermon on the Mount teaches us the path of the perfect Christian life, the way to be fully happy and to flourish as human beings and as sons and daughters of God.

And yet it is a challenging teaching. We know how difficult it is and how often we fail in it. But here we should take consolation and draw strength from the fundamental truth that it is Christ who, as the embodiment of divine wisdom, is the one who primarily lives out the life of perfection set out in the Sermon on the Mount. Our Christian calling is to share in what Christ already is and enables us to be, as he makes his Spirit present within us.

It is the Spirit of Christ who reveals to us the truth about God and about our human lives and it is the Spirit of Christ that enables us to live as God wants, to live happy and flourishing human lives. This is the reality of grace, the reality of Christ’s spirit being active within us, bringing his wisdom into the actions and words of who we are.

Readings: Ecclesiasticus 15:16-21 | 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 | Matthew 5:17-37

Image: The Sermon on the Mount and the Healing of the Leper (1481-82), fresco, Sistine Chapel, Cosimo Rosselli (1439-1507), photographed by Frans Vanderwalle

Fr Martin Robindra Ganeri is Prior Provincial of the English Province of the Order of Preachers.

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