Readings: Wisdom 6:12-16; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13
After decades of praying the psalms, most monks know the psalms well enough to sing them by heart. However, singing psalms by heart can be problematic the moment we remind ourselves that we are singing them from memory. Almost inevitably we begin to stumble over the words and begin inserting words from other psalms. Similarly, those of you who use keyboard shortcuts on your computer may have found difficulty in teaching these to someone else–the moment you actually focus on what you’re used to doing without thinking, you simply can’t do it. A similar problem arises with virtues like humility as well as that wisdom described in our First Reading.
I say this because one of the frustrating things about the seemingly elusive virtue of humility is that the moment we become aware of our humility is also the moment we lose perfect humility. And this is because at its heart, authentic Christian humility creates a general lack of self-consciousness in our total openness to God and to others. Pride and vainglory will always interfere by drawing attention to ourselves in relating to God and one another. In the same way, the precious gift of Christian Wisdom is most fully present when it is not consciously recognized by the one imbued with it. The moment I observe that I am wise, wisdom becomes an attribute I possess and something I think I own apart from God who grants it. The truth, however, is that true Wisdom is never a personal possession but exists only in a living relationship with him–and never apart from that relationship.
For if wisdom were synonymous with knowledge–even of divine things–then it would, I suppose, be something we possess along with our other human attributes. However, when wisdom is understood as reaching that point where, in the words of Saint Paul, we take on the mind of Christ, then it can never be a possession any more than Christ can be a possession and something that we own and have at our disposal whenever we need him. In other words, Christian wisdom–to use a modern media analogy–is a little like a live-stream video in contrast to a recording that we possess and can replay. In losing our living live-stream connection with Christ the Wisdom of God, our own wisdom is also lost.
This explains why Christ, in warning the disciples that they would be taken before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, also urged them to not worry about how or what defense will be or about what you are to say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say. This is obviously not to be confused with encouraging casualness, unpreparedness, or a lack of initiative, but rather an invitation to that abiding union with Christ by which, in sharing his divinity, we come to share in and become one with the Wisdom of God. And the deeper and more perfect this union is, the more our words and utterances represent God’s words so that Christ insisted: Whoever listens to you, listens to me. Whoever rejects you, rejects me. However this is not to suggest that we become simple, passive mouthpieces of God mindlessly channeling his wisdom and insight. Rather, through our union with him, what Christ said of himself, we can say of ourselves, namely, everything that the Father has is mine–God’s Wisdom also becomes my Wisdom, but only in a living and loving relationship with him.
In searching for wisdom it is well to remember that this wisdom has already been seeking us from the first moment of our conception. For, in our Christian tradition, Wisdom is not an attribute, a body of knowledge, or the mark of intelligence, but rather a person, a divine person, who is readily perceived by those who love him and found by those who seek him. And thus those who confuse Wisdom with knowledge and knowing many things will forever be frustrated in their search for Wisdom. Let us not be among them, but rather let us be untiring in our search for that Wisdom who comes in search of us. For if we persevere in our search, Wisdom will, in the words of our First Reading, graciously appear to [us] in [our] ways, and meet [us] with all solicitude.