“…and he shall find her sitting by his gate.”
You know those moments when you’ve been thinking about or reading about something, and then it happens to come up at Sunday mass? When the readings or the homily are about exactly what’s been on your mind/heart? I love when that happens! That happened to me this weekend.
I’ve been working through a book on childlikeness* for while. You may have noticed since I tend to write on the topic quite often (See at the bottom of this post!). Just this weekend as I was having some much needed R&R, I came to the part in the book on wisdom and childlikeness – and, yep! Wisdom was the focus of our Sunday readings yesterday.
Resplendent and unfading is wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire;
Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting by his gate. (from WIS 6:12-16)
This imagery of wisdom sitting at the gate really struck me. Surely wisdom is something that most people would agree is good, something that they would like to have. And if she is readily perceived by those who love her, by those who seek her, why aren’t more people wise? (…and how much our world needs wisdom today!)
Making the root of holy wisdom our own*
If we aren’t walking around already as wise as we’re called to be (or as wise as our nation needs us to be!), then what’s up? Scripture tells us all we need to do is seek her, and she will come to us. How do we seek wisdom? Fr Joseph Kentenich taught that “Wisdom can be viewed in two ways – as a virtue and as a gift of the Holy Spirit.” As a virtue, wisdom is something we can strive for. And as a gift, it is also something given only by God, that we have to ask for. He speaks about how to “cultivate the root of holy wisdom which is the source of genuine childlikeness.” In other words, childlikeness comes from wisdom.
I think it also works the other way around, that wisdom comes from childlikeness. More specifically, our hearts are best prepared to receive wisdom and can most ardently strive for wisdom when we place ourselves in the position of childlikeness before God. Why might that be? Let’s return to scripture:
For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care;
because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her,
and graciously appears to them in the ways,
and meets them with all solicitude. (from WIS 6:12-16)
Taking thought of wisdom…keeping vigil for her sake – just as the ten virgins kept vigil by being prepared for the Bridegroom in yesterday’s Gospel. (Sidenote: in our homily the priest mentioned that the wise virgins still rested while waiting, they just filled their oil lamps first. What a healthy way to conceptualize it in that by “keeping vigil” we are also invited to remain rooted in the natural world; i.e. Jesus isn’t saying never rest again!). Back to keeping vigil – in seeking wisdom, scripture clearly tells us that our part is to be awake and open to her arrival. She is coming! “She makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her.” Our part is not to worry and fret about when she’ll arrive or if she ever will, but to trust, to wait, to desire, and to be open.
A fundamental part of childlikeness is openness – the kind of openness that walks hand in hand with humility. To the one with a childlike heart, everything teaches about God’s love, everything is a message from the Father, and everything is considered to have meaning and purpose in His plan of love – especially when the way is dark or difficult.
In this sense, Fr. Kentenich says that although wisdom involves knowledge, it is also much more than being learned, and that wisdom knows how to chart the middle path between the “claim to know everything with perfect certainty” and claiming that it’s impossible to ever “reach any conclusions” at all. He says, “Wisdom has respect for the light of truth as well as for the darkness of truth.” I think it takes a great childlike humility and trust in deed to be able to admit the darkness of truth and even revere it, without losing faith or demanding that the darkness be dispersed.
He then goes on to list seven qualities that knowledge must have to be wisdom, and the very first one is “Wisdom is wonder-filled and reverent.” What better example for wonder-filled do we have than the way a small child takes in the world around him? The gasp and giggle at all sorts of things that we walk by because we think we’ve seen them hundreds of times: bugs, flowers, bits of shells…its all wonderful to them. There’s this song called Brand New by Peter Mayer where he sings about a little girl experiencing the world and he says, “But every day, she’ll say to you “The world, the world is new” And you’ll look and you’ll see it’s true, The world is all brand new.” What wisdom we would know if we saw the world as all brand new!
And I think that wonder and reverence also has to do with how the ten wise virgins worked to be prepared for the Bridegroom. They knew with an inner reverence that this wasn’t just any old wedding feast, but a special moment that invited their own special effort and attention in response, their intentional openness as an active yes to participating in the wedding feast. And then, perhaps no wedding is “just any old occasion” – perhaps no meeting with Christ is just any old meeting – perhaps every mass, every prayer, every person is always waiting to be received by us with an inner reverence and wonder-filled-ness befitting to Son of Man?…what if we believed that holy wisdom was always seated just outside at the gate, searching for someone open to receive her, that she might their cares free?…what would our world look like if we strived each day with a childlike heart to receive in reverence whatever message of of love God sent us?
Let us implore the Holy Spirit for this gift of wisdom, that we might be transformed more and more each day in a spirit of childlikeness, to bring inner wisdom to a world thirsting for it…
You are the soul of my soul.
I humbly adore you.
Enlighten me, strengthen me,
Guide me, comfort me.
Reveal your wishes to me
As far as this is in accordance
With the will of the Eternal Father
Show me what Eternal Love wants of me.
Show me what I should do.
Show me what I should suffer.
Show me what I should humbly and
Thoughtfully accept, bear, and endure.
Holy Spirit, show me your will
and the will of the Father,
For I want my whole life to be nothing else
than a continuous, an everlasting yes
to the wishes, to the will of God,
The Eternal Father. Amen. **
*Fr Joseph Kentenich, Childlikeness before God
** Fr Joseph Kentenich, Heavenwards
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