Reflection for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
For anything to qualify as a treasure, it must have great value, and it must be hard to obtain as treasures are often hidden. For this reason, the most popular definitions of treasure relate them to precious gemstones like diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires and precious metals like gold and silver.
Have you ever considered wisdom as a treasure? By the way, what is wisdom, what is valuable about it, and what are the divine strategies for obtaining wisdom in this journey called life? The answer to these questions will form the foreground of our reflection. If you need wisdom, then this is for you.
The Path of Wisdom vs the Path of Foolishness
In the First Reading (Wisdom 6:12-16), the writer introduces wisdom with the feminine gender while telling us about her resplendent and unfading character. In a few words, the passage says that wisdom searches for those who love, desire, and intentionally seek her.
In the Gospel of Reading, our Lord Jesus Christ distinguishes wisdom and foolishness using a kingdom parable featuring ten bridesmaids identified as virgins.
In the narrative, the ten virgins were awaiting the bridegroom’s arrival with their lamps. Five were called wise because they brought extra oil for their lamps, while the others who had none were called foolish. Since it took the bridegroom a long time to arrive, they all fell asleep.
At midnight, however, there was a cry announcing the bridegroom’s arrival. And the need for the virgins to welcome him with their light lamps. They all woke up and trimmed their lamps.
It happened, however, that those who did not bring extra oil could not kindle their lamps, and when they asked the other five to share their oil, they asked them to go and buy from merchants since what they had wasn’t enough for sharing.
We learned from the narrative that the foolish virgins went to get oil, but by the time they returned to rejoin the wedding feast, it was very late, and the door was locked. Anyways, they knocked, but they were denied admittance on the ground that the Lord did not know them.
Our Lord Jesus Christ ended the parable with a very instructive message: “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
The Making of Wisdom and Foolishness
There is no agreed definition of wisdom like other terms with religious and secular relevance and usage. Some people mistake wisdom for wise sayings or exceptional skills. St. James helps us to understand that there is a difference between worldly and godly wisdom:
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:13)
In simple terms, wisdom is a divine gift that helps us to make choices that are consistent with the agenda of God. Wisdom is also the right application of knowledge using the tool of understanding.
Foolishness is the flip side of wisdom, and it involves making the wrong choices even when they appear to be the right choices in the short term. For every foolishness, deep knowledge and understanding are either lacking or shallow. Proverbs (14:7) says: “Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips.
In the parable, all were virgins. But being a virgin doesn’t translate to wisdom. So, a virgin can be foolish. The lesson here is that there is a difference between what you are and what you do. We generally believe that the wise brought extra oil while the foolish did not. But there is more, and that is why the two groups acted as they did; that is the root of the wisdom or foolishness.
Let’s begin with the wise virgins; their key was purposeful preparation. That was the reason they had extra oil, which they needed later. Wisdom helps us to go beyond the current situation. Notice again that they did not share their oil because they could end up like the foolish ones.
The others were foolish because they presumed that the bridegroom would arrive early and that the oil that they had would be enough the whole time. Presumption is an active indicator of foolishness because it discourages preparation and brings disconnection. The Psalmist (Psalm 19:13) prayed:
Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be perfect, and I shall be clear from great transgression.
Moving Forward: Steps to Wisdom
In the opening part of this reflection, we talked about wisdom as a treasure, and like every worthwhile treasure, one needs to search before it can be obtained. This is how you can get wisdom.
Desire and search for it: Jesus once said that the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it (Matthew 13:45-46).In life, you often attract and get what you desire when you set your mind on it. The same law applies to wisdom.
Ask for it: The Letter of St. James (1:5) clearly says; If anyone of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it shall be given to you.” Remember that wisdom is a gift of the Spirit (Isaiah 11:2), so it can be given and received just like Solomon when he asked for a discerning heart to distinguish right from wrong (1 King 3:9).
Life without wisdom is a waste. Beyond all the material treasures you can obtain in life, if you do not have wisdom, you are urgently in need. It takes wisdom to get eternal life. The major problem of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21) was the lack of wisdom; that is why he is called a fool.
Let us not repeat the mistakes of the foolish virgins by presuming that everything will be alright somehow. The truth is that things don’t just become alright. We must make them right by the choices we make daily. It takes wisdom to plan, prepare, and perform. Ask for wisdom; you will get it!
God bless you.