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Where Wisdom may be found

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Sermon for Quinquagesima Sunday (Mattins)

We are very familiar with those three visitors who appear in our Nativity Sets. We hear them called Magi, three kings or the three wise men. You don’t doubt that they are wise because they have the sense to follow the star of Bethlehem to find Our Lord.

Is it wise, then, to follow your horoscope in the paper? After all, that is what the Magi are doing in some sense?

Is it wise to give up all that is familiar to you and strike out a living alone based on vague promises of wealth and happiness? After all, this is what Abraham does.

You can probably think of situations in which it is wise to do things which, at the time, seem strange, uncomfortable or just plain stupid. And there are times when it is strange, uncomfortable and just plain stupid to keep carrying on as we are. If you’ve been living in a tent on the same bit of ground for the past ten years and you hear reports of a tornado, do you stay where you are?

It seems that wisdom is something very desirable for us to have. But what is it?


There are several books in Holy Scripture which are described as being Wisdom literature: they are meant to sow wisdom in the people who listen carefully. These are the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, which we sometimes call the Song of Solomon, the Book of Wisdom, often called the Wisdome of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus which is often called the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach, or just Sirach for short. In these books we find lessons in the nature of suffering, how to sing to God, good ideas for godly living. Even how to fall in love! Surely, though, the human race has been doing all these things without the need for the Bible. Why do we need this Wisdom Literature?

What many people don’t know is that the Wisdom of Sirach has a prologue in the Greek Old Testament written, apparently, by the grandson of Jesus the Son of Sirach. He says, “Many great teachings have been given to us through the Law and the Prophets and the others that followed them, and for these we should praise Israel for instruction and wisdom. Now, those who read the scriptures must not only themselves understand them, but must also as lovers of learning be able through the spoken and written word to help the outsiders.” What we see is that what we understand by wisdom is completely bound up in the Scriptures and the study of the bible. And this makes sense. Job may tell us about his suffering, but the book of Job is something deeper than that. It may not answer directly the question “why do bad things happen to good people?” but a careful study of it reveals much into human nature and how we approach people who are in pain and misery. Further, it reveals a God Who is not absent but rather takes pride in those who love Him.

Likewise, the Song of Songs may appear risqué but we see how God fits in to the business of human relationships. In all Wisdom literature, we find recorded the plain fact that Wisdom is the life lived in the fear of God. Of course, by “fear” we can certainly understand the sense of awe and worship when we are face-to-face with the Creator of the Universe. We have to let that fear into our lives because it is a fear that encourages pure love. It is not a fear that destroys it.


Wisdom is for every Christian. It is not just for those who are clever, have lots of degrees, or have written many books. We must remember that the Wise King Solomon was tempted into idolatry by his six hundred wives. Indeed, we live in a time when the most intelligent and most academic of people encourage us to give up on God and on our religion. There are even those who lead the Church who seek to draw us away from God by embracing the things of this world – they, too, are modern versions of Solomon. Wisdom is for us all. It is enshrined in Scripture and in the Tradition that arises from and interacts with it, and our fear and love for God compels us to receive it.


Lent is the perfect time for sharpening our Wisdom through careful study of the Scriptures, but we do need to ask God for His Wisdom first so that we don’t acquire the wisdom of the world that will reject Him. We should fear that we don’t love God enough and it will be this fear that drives us to know Him better. We remember that we are dust and unto dust shall we return, and we remember that God has given us the Scriptures and the Holy Ghost that we might go beyond our dust and into Eternal life in His love.

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