15 November 2007 Thursday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 7, 22b – 8, 1 Wisdom in the Old Testament
When we read the bible with all its historical accounts and dramatic events, we get the impression that all of Israel’s life was full of crisis and extraordinary experiences. We hear of God spectacularly intervening in history. In Exodus, He manifested Himself in the burning bush, and followed the people in a column of cloud at day or a pillar of fire at night (Exodus 13, 21). Or we hear of fiery prophets warning the people, and saying, “Thus says the Lord!” But most of Israel’s days were like ours: mundane, drab, and ordinary.
These ordinary and routinary everyday life is the focus of what we call, “Wisdom Literature.” Wisdom literature includes the books of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Sirach and the book of Wisdom (our first reading). Wisdom literature can be easily understood by our Filipino proverbs or salawikain like “Ang taong nagigipit sa patalim man ay kumakapit” or “Pagmaiksi ang kumot, matuto kang mamaluktot” (literal: If the blanket is short, learn to bend. Meaning: Live by your means).
In other words, the concerns of Wisdom literature are the very simple questions of life: how to discipline your children, the need for hard work, why good people suffer and wicked people prosper. We have the problem of gossip and how it endangers community life: May tainga ang lupa, may pakpak ang balita (literal: The ground has ears, news have wings). Thus, Wisdom is a perspective, a paradigm, an approach to life, a way of deliberately and consciously living out our commitment to God. For the Israelites, their commitment to God is assumed, implicit and tacit.
The first reading tells us about how the ancient Israelites approaches life. They believe that God, who is the Creator of all things, placed in all of creation the Spirit of Wisdom. This means that all of creation mirrors and reflects the nature and wisdom of God. When St. Ignatius said, “See God in all things” this is what he meant. Gerald Manley Hopkins SJ, said that “the world is charged with the grandeur of God.” Thus, we can discern the spirit and presence of God in all of his creation. In addition, it is possible for us to see the purpose of God in each and every creation He made.
And therefore, what is our responsibility? We are given the responsibility to ‘see God in all things” including the mundane, ordinary and everyday lives when we don’t feel God’s presence. We have our own “burning bushes and pillars of cloud and fire”. We ordinarily experience God’s grace in extraordinary events: when we pass the board or bar exams, when we win a competition, when people greet us on our birthdays and anniversaries, when we are given some special recognition. But we find it difficult to see God in lull moments, when there are no burning bushes. Wisdom is to discover and to live the truth that everything has a place in the greater order to things. And when we see that everything has a purpose in the whole universe, we use these things according to what it was created for. When we do that we live in harmony with God.