Wisdom requires deep listening to the whispers of God

Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time/Nov. 8

Wisdom 6:12-16; Psalm 63:2,3-4,5-6,7-8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

Wisdom is a topic that has, on the surface of it, great appeal. Who would not want wisdom? How do I gain wisdom? We can think in our minds of a person who exemplifies it. But what is wisdom?

Many years ago I knew a woman who I thought had great wisdom. I loved talking to her, soaking in her wisdom. She had a very difficult life. Her family transferred from Mississippi to Illinois. She and her husband had 14 children. Her husband was now deceased, but, when they were married, he abused her terribly. She raised 10 of the children, having buried four of them before their adulthood. All her children except one ended in prison.

Life was cruel to her in many ways. But you would never know that from her demeanor. Instead of life making her bitter and angry, she could see the good. The Lord was central to her life. And she listened to and trusted Him. She seemed to be able to take the experiences in her life, most of which had been very difficult, and remain faithful to her God and to herself.

I remember asking myself how she gained such wisdom. As I listened to her I decided that her wisdom took root in prayer and accepting the circumstances of her life. It was certainly not knowledge that helped her. She had only a fourth-grade education. It was the ability to have a perspective that saw goodness and hope. Instead of tugging at God, she was open to God’s perspective.

KEEPING “LAMPS” FILLED

The first reading from the Book of Wisdom today personifies wisdom as “resplendent and unfading,” waiting for anyone who can perceive her to be found by her (Wisdom 6:12). She makes herself known to the person who desires her: “She makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her . . . and meets them with all solicitude” (Wisdom 6:16).

Unlike knowledge, wisdom resides within each of us. It requires listening, a deep listening to the whispers of God. It requires a disciplined listening so that the voices running on the energy of fear, criticism and cruelty do not overtake the voice of wisdom.

The Gospel speaks of keeping our “lamps” filled. Idle standing and waiting alone will not do that. Filling our lamps with the wrong oil does not do that. A recent Sunday’s readings suggest God’s perspective: “Love the Lord, your God with all your heart . . . and your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). That is how we are to fill our lamps.

As the woman I mentioned knew in her humility, God is center. That is realized in prayer and trust in God, and remembering that love of neighbor follows. Jesus’ commitment to build the kingdom here is our commitment to make the kingdom of God a reality. That is the oil we use to stand ready to see the Lord.

In this month of remembrance, we hold in our hearts those who understood that message of Jesus. They did not stand by idly, hoping that their preoccupation with their own petty concerns would fill their lamps. They, instead, waited for wisdom to visit and make known her desires. They stood by hoping they would be worthy of her resplendence and unfading gifts.

During this month of November may we keep our lamps filled with the oil of God’s mercy and compassion, and may we be worthy of wisdom when she “makes her rounds seeking those worthy of her” (Wisdom 6:18).

SISTER RACHEL BERGSCHNEIDER, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island. She ministers at the Peoria County Jail, serving as a facilitator in the Jobs Partnership program.

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