Sunday, October 20, 2013

In the Pursuit of Wisdom

I love to study.  Any given week I might read Hans Urs Von Balthasar, St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Thomas Aquinas or Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.  Each theologian diligently studied the Scriptures and the Tradition seeking a divine wisdom, rich in treasure.  Because of human weakness, our own perspectives of the world are limited.  Only after heroic efforts, do we come to a partial understanding of the truth.  However, by faith in Jesus, we have access to the Divine perspective.  Jesus offers us a wisdom which surpasses human understanding.

Wisdom is the basis for love.  Those who clearly perceive reality both see how good it is and know how to be a steward of that goodness.  The people we love most are those whom we know most intimately.  Knowledge of our friends brings us joy when we think about them and experience them.  It’s when a person shares their inner most concerns that friendships are formed.  This self-communication is a self-gift at the most intimate level.  By giving knowledge of yourself to another, you entrust yourself into the other’s care, and as the other receives that knowledge, a friend takes you into his or her self.  When this exchange happens, we begin to see the value and goodness of the other and wish to build him or her up in love.

Self-communication is the basis of our relationship with God.  Jesus is the Word of God; He is the Father’s final and definitive self-communication.  Our faith mediates to us a real experience of the love of Jesus, crucified and risen.  The Bible and the Sacred Tradition of the Church give us trustworthy testimony to who Jesus is and who God is at the most intimate level—God is love.  The complex mysteries of the faith are elaborations on this one central mystery.  When we speak of the Trinity, we speak of a God in three persons who are bound in an eternal procession of love.  The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, and this love between the Father and the Son is so real that it is the Holy Spirit.  When we speak about the Incarnation, we are speaking about the God who so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son.  Out of love for us, Jesus assumed humanity and all the consequences of sin so that He could exchange our death for His life.  When we know these truths about God, we realize who He is and can discern how best to pursue Him.  God’s self-revelation becomes a source of wisdom.

The fullest expression of wisdom is knowledge of God.  If we know God, we see reality in its fullness because the whole world is a pale reflection of the beauty of God. All creation finds its source, pattern, and purpose in God.  If we pursue this wisdom, we see the world as it is and as it is meant to be.  God’s wisdom is without failure; He is not bound to the narrowness and errors of human persons.  In wisdom we can find joy and delight because knowledge of another person inspires love.  The Bible says, “Wisdom exalts her sons and gives help to those who seek her.  Whoever loves her loves life, and those who seek her early will be filled with joy.  Whoever holds her fast will obtain glory, and the Lord will bless the place she enters” (Sir 4:11-13).  No one has more glory or blessings than the one who loves as a result of knowing Love Himself.  That person has been made a partaker in the divine nature (2 Pt 1:4).

In this life, the pursuit of wisdom is difficult, but every step forward is worthwhile.  It begins with the fear of the Lord (cf Sir 1:13).  Those who fear the Lord wish to always remain at His side because they love Him and do not want to separate themselves from Him.  We abide in the Lord through the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist (Jn 6:56) and through keeping Jesus’s commandments (Jn 15:10).  Pursuing wisdom requires reading the Scriptures in light of the Tradition of the Church.  Scripture and Tradition together give us access to Jesus who reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature (cf. Heb 1:3).  Studying the faith is a necessary constituent of a mature spiritual life.  It is like stepping out into the sun and letting God’s light warm the skin because the truths studied in theology are the countless ways in which God expresses His love for us.  Most importantly pursuing wisdom requires us to bind up everything we do in a relationship of prayer with God.  In our prayers, we speak to God and God speaks to us.  This is the most intimate self-revelation by which we entrust ourselves to God and God entrusts Himself to us.  It is in the depths of prayer that we begin to speak to God face to face and experience Him as He is: a communion of love.

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