The phrase "discovering the gifts of wisdom" came to mind as I reflected on this Sunday's reading. Have you ever been approached for advice? Perhaps you gave your best advice, but it was disregarded. Many people want wisdom but are hesitant to accept it. They would rather take their own routes which could lead to catastrophe and strife.
When I was an adolescent, I was one of the many teenagers and young people who fall into this category. I recall being a rebellious adolescent. I should have listened to the wise counsel of my elders, but there was something in me that made me want to do things my own way. I frequently wound up in trouble and learned my lesson. In reality, this is how many people learn crucial life lessons. Turning to the scriptures, the first reading is a song about wisdom, and how she will always be near those who seek her. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us a story of five wise virgins who took the time to prepare for the arrival of the bridegroom.
The coming of the bridegroom brought not only enthusiasm, but also tension, splitting the group. God instructs us to have a teachable spirit; the wise were grateful for the instruction and they arrived prepared, but the foolish screamed in the dark night without oil in their lamps. Such conflicts arise in our lives because we encounter both the wise and the foolish on a daily basis. In my experience, those who are wise will work with a wise consultant, take the advice they are provided, and put it into action. The foolish, on the other hand, will dismiss the sound advice and pursue their own way out of pride.
How can we assist folks in our communities who do not follow advice? What is justice, I wonder? Saint Paul confronts and assures the Thessalonian in the second reading with the guarantee that those who die in faith will live forever in Jesus. Similarly, we are presented with and urged to live in faith. We are challenged to put aside our rebellious attitudes and listen to sensible counsel. We are to face those among us and assist one another in listening to the advice given.
We need wisdom in our lives, and we need others to help us think through challenging matters. When we are in need, we all know someone who will sit with us and give their expertise. This is analogous to our Catholic social teaching of sharing knowledge and offering guidance to the poor, foolish, young, and elderly.
The gift of wisdom enables us to surrender our wills and allow God's will to be done. Only by remaining faithful to God can we maintain both joy and tension in our lives. The five virgins surrendered in the darkness and learned how to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ. In such darkness the virgins learned insight to comprehend God's purpose and make wiser decisions.
Wisdom arises in us through difficult times. It begins with pain that we cannot rationalize or put behind us. With our disappointment we gain understanding.
This invitation shows us that we can change anything within ourselves, including rejection or disappointment, into insight. The process of transforming sadness into understanding looks like a sorting process at times. We go through everything first, then let go of the anger, blame, sense of injustice, and finally the anguish itself, until all that remains is a better appreciation for life and a stronger capacity to truly enjoy it.
Photo courtesy of author.