Homily for Saturday of the VIII week in Ordinary time, year I
Wisdom is a common theme of today’s readings, explicit in the texts from Sirach and the Psalms, and implicit in the Gospel reading. As one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, it merits some of our time and attention.
The word “wisdom” is used in a few different ways in the Scriptures and in theology. For instance, sometimes it is the personification of God’s Word, and other times, one of the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the context of today’s readings, the second of these options seems most logical.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, intelligence, knowledge, piety, counsel, fortitude, and fear of the Lord. Just going by the names, we can easily confuse wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and counsel, but theologians make a fine distinction. Wisdom helps us to value things in the right measure and perspective, putting God and the goods of the spirit before goods of the world. Understanding is the gift of comprehending the truths of the faith, and knowledge is the insight to perceive immaterial and material reality in the light of those truths, seeing things as God sees them. Counsel is the gift of knowing how to act based on these values and insights.
Obviously, these are all very desirable gifts, and wisdom is the first fundamental step. Although the book of Sirach may be using the word in a slightly wider sense, it is quite understandable why wisdom is described as being so very desirable. The Psalm shows us that heeding God’s commands gives us wisdom, which in turn gives us joy and peace. Because wisdom helps us to love God above all things, we appreciate and keep His law, and value His teachings more than any material wealth.
The Gospel shows us that the “chief priests, the scribes, and the elders” were clearly lacking this gift of wisdom. They valued the status quo of their pride, authority and prestige more than the truth, so they continued to challenge Jesus, and gauge their replies to Him according to human advantage or disadvantage, not according to God’s truth.
Putting God and His plan first in our lives often requires giving up other lesser values. Learning to do this is a big part of what our upcoming Lenten sacrifices are about. Let us pray for each other, that during our voyage to Easter we may be filled with the gift of wisdom, becoming less attached to the things of this world and giving priority to God and to the values that He teaches us through the life, suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.