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Lectionary Living

Wisdom and her cousin

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 and Psalm 8  •  Romans 5:1-5  •  John 16:12-15


     Wisdom. According to the Proverbs reading, Wisdom was present before the beginning of the earth, suggesting the idea of its existing even before the Big Bang. Wisdom – and who knows what other mysteries, now slightly understood from quantum mechanics, particle physics, general relativity, and so on – might still be present after the conclusion of life here on earth, estimated at 5 billion years from now. In the meantime, though, wouldn't it be nice if we were wiser. As a species, human beings have been given dominion over the world, and yet we lack the wisdom to care for creation. As individuals, each of us has the chance to hear the spirit of truth in our lives, and yet most of the time, most of us lack the ability to attend to the truth. How does one avail oneself of wisdom, apparently standing at the city gates, calling to all?


     At least a partial answer to this question may be found in the Romans text. In it, Paul builds a magnificent description of resilience that begins with one word: peace. In an odd way, peace itself is tied back to truth. The more a person can see things for what they are – can see the truth or broaden an understanding of the multiple perspectives pertaining to a situation – the more a person can be at peace. Reasoning may be needed to get at truth. Sometimes, the reasoning is emotional: What is making me so angry? Am I angry or just hungry? Sometimes the reasoning is intellectual: Is it fair to be angry with my colleague, or might she have had problems outside my awareness? Are there other ways of seeing what happened? Do I have all the facts? The more one can engage the capacity for reason, the more one can find truth.


     In addition to using one's own faculties of reason, staying connected with others can also help ground a person in truth. Reality comes through knowing others; an inability to consider what another person is saying is a sure sign that one has work to do on both the relationship and one's own inner ability to be curious and detached. Somehow it is easy to lose one's own moorings, like shifting sand under one's feet when the tide goes out. But not attending to the potentially different views of others keeps one imprisoned in a world limited to those who agree: a world of an uneasy truce among the insiders who are always looking for validation for their viewpoint, a world less and less moored to reality. Rather, the way of truth is found in staying connected with others who may think differently without giving up oneself. Think Jesus before Pilate. Jesus was crystal clear about his own principles, while able to remain genuinely interested in what Pilate was up against. What is truth? To live one's life in a way that explores the question is the way of wisdom and her cousin, peace.  


For reflection

Proverbs 8:1 Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?


When will I have a chance to work on detachment today? What is likely to get in my way?


When was I able to remain detached? What helped?

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