By Fr. Benedict Groeschel
Our Blessed Lord left the world without leaving any written message. His doctrine was Himself. Ideal and History were identified in Him. The truth that all other ethical teachers proclaimed, and the light that they gave to the world was not in them, but outside them. Our Divine Lord, however, identified Divine Wisdom with Himself. It was the first time in history that it was ever done, and it has never been done since. (Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Life of Christ, 1977.)
I have worked for many decades in academic environments and, generally speaking, the idea of Wisdom in the ivory towers of academia is a rather abstract concept. But actually, it’s not really so hard to understand as that. As Archbishop Sheen so beautifully points out above, Wisdom is a Person, Jesus Himself, and no other religious system comes close to having this fullness of truth. All the Old Testament passages that speak of wisdom point to Him as the fulfillment of the teaching of the prophets and the wise men of Israel.
When talking about wisdom, we have to be aware of the distinction that St. Paul made between the wisdom of God and the “wisdom of this world.” There is a fundamental difference. He said, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.” (1 Cor 3:18-19) We call Jesus the “Eternal Wisdom” of God because by becoming human He brought into this world a new way of viewing reality. Our view of reality often brings us into conflict with the standard view of things because we try to see life from an eternal, not just a secular, perspective. Conflict between the two views of reality is inevitable. St. Paul even says that the worldly view of things is “foolishness” and “rubbish” (Phil 3:8) when compared to God’s perspective. But how hard it is to make ourselves see things the way God sees them.
“Eternal Wisdom” in this sense is not book knowledge. It is, rather, a type of “perspective” on things. It is not intelligence; it is “perception” from a much higher viewpoint. It is kind of like going up in a helicopter over the intersection of several highways and radioing down to give directions to the driver of a car who can’t see which road is the right one to take to get to his destination. The mass of intersecting highways looks confusing from the ground view, but from the helicopter hundreds of feet above, the direction is clear. That is my own weak analogy for how important Divine Wisdom is for us mortals. Without that eternal perspective we would literally be lost in the maze of conflicting paths that the world offers us for fulfillment; but we don’t need fulfillment, we need salvation.
For me, the Gospel teaching that most “confounds the wise” and expresses the essence of our faith is the teaching on love of one’s enemy. When you get to this teaching of Jesus, all bets are off. It is the dividing line between those who accept the Wisdom of Christ and those who can’t get beyond the wisdom of this world. To my knowledge, Christianity is the only religion or philosophy in history that has ever taught this hard truth. It had to be revealed by “Eternal Wisdom” Himself in order for us to know it because it so militates against the way the world thinks. I don’t believe for a minute that this teaching is easy to practice. It can only be lived through a life of grace. Yet, this eternal truth of the Gospel is also the only thing that could literally transform the whole world if we let it.
Allow me to end with a prayer that is not my own but which I picked up from another priest’s sermon somewhere in my career. I am told that it was found on a piece of paper near a dead woman and child when the Ravensbruck concentration camp was liberated at the end of World War II. I have no doubt that a magnificent soul, purified by suffering and full of Christ’s “Eternal Wisdom,” wrote it for our benefit. Bring this gem with you on our journey through life and you will undoubtedly grow in Wisdom and grace.
O Lord, when I shall come with glory into Your Kingdom, do not remember only the men of good will; remember also the men of evil. May they be remembered not only for their acts of cruelty in this camp – the evil they have done to us prisoners – but balance against their cruelty the fruits we have reaped under the stress and in the pain: the comradeship, the courage, the greatness of heart, the humility and patience which have been born in us and have become part of our lives because we have suffered at their hands. May the memory of us not be a nightmare to them when they stand in judgment. May all that we have suffered be acceptable to You as a ransom for them. “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies…” Amen.
[Excerpted from: Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Jesus and Mary: In Praise of their Glorious Names, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.: Huntington, Indiana, 2012.]