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Twenty-Eighth Sunday of the Year

The Gift of Wisdom

We all need to know wise people. Someone to turn to for advice at an important or difficult time in our lives. Someone who will soothe our worries, and will speak their mind, but in gentleness. Folk tales are full of Wise Men and Fairy Godmothers, and they remain favourite characters, and modern stories too: Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, or Dumbledore in Harry Potter. Many cultures still have their Elders, or the Wise Woman who knows the healing herbs.

The Bible has its own Wisdom tradition, including the Book of Wisdom, from which today's first reading is taken. It's not known to all Christians: the first protestant reformers took it out because it was a late work in Greek and not part of the Hebrew Bible, but today many Christians are rediscovering Wisdom.

One theme the book particularly takes up is knowing God through contemplating the natural world around us: 'For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator' (Wisdom 13:5).

We can only see this, though, if we sit still. As the poet T.S. Eliot wrote,

Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Wise people are still and calm when everyone else is rushing around in a flap. Because wisdom is not something we just get for ourselves: it is a gift. 'The spirit of Wisdom came to me.'

If you watched the TV series The Monastery or The Convent, you will have noticed how the busy people who shared the monks' and nuns' lives for forty days gained wisdom through this time of quiet and inactivity. Some who had been atheists came to believe in God.

The word of God's wisdom is not always comfortable, though: 'it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely … it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). Sometimes God's wisdom brings us uncomfortable realisations about ourselves. We may find that all our activity and buying and selling were ways of avoiding things.

Jesus's wise advice, 'Go, sell everything you own and give the money to the poor', was not popular with the young man who heard it. The often tragic personal lives of wealthy celebrities shows that riches alone do not bring wisdom or happiness. That is not to say it is wrong to own nice things, provided we are willing to share them, nor is it wrong to be busy if it's good work. Only that because it is so easy to loose a sense of where we're going in our activity-focused and retail-driven culture, we should take a quiet moment every day to sit still with God.

And when we start to let go -- 'not without persecution', indeed, because we will have to go against the tide sometimes -- we will be repaid 'a hundred times over … in this present time' as well as in eternal life. We will be wise people, with Our Lord Jesus, who is the Wisdom of God.

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