Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 6:12-16; 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18; Matthew 25: 1-13
Saint John Baptist de LaSalle/Saint Stephen, November 12, 2023
My father was born in 1921, on a large farm in Wales Massachusetts, and by the time he was twelve years old he had one older brother, and seven sisters. They all went to school, with little hope of attending college, and so when my father had finished eighth grade, during the Great Depression, he left school to work on the farm. My father could read and write, and oh how he loved to read, and in spite of a high school education, I did not consider him to be a very wise man. My father worked in a mill as a sander of toilet seats for forty-five years, a very difficult and thankless, job. When he came home from work he would sit in the kitchen, reading books, and he hardly ever spoke, my mother did all the talking.
It would take me another fifty years to understand how wise my father really was. Wisdom is not knowing facts about the world. Wisdom is knowing how to make your way through the world. Education, all other types of knowledge, can be studied. Wisdom must be learned. We may wish that it were not so, but wisdom is more often acquired as we live our life, facing setbacks and advances. Misfortunes make you question why. Misfortunes ready you to learn, at least they ought to. Wisdom begins to form within you as you speak and listen to other people. This is true, because you are searching for your place among people, especially the ones who share your life. Finally, wisdom settles into you by way of silence, after you have talked with others and listened to them, if you would then be wise, you should be silent and listen for a time.
All of this can be illustrated in a very familiar wisdom story. It comes from a wonderful book and a superb movie called, “The Wizard of Oz.” Wisdom is not about facts. It is not learning that some monkeys can fly, that some trees don’t want their apples picked or that the brick road is yellow. Those are just facts about the Land of Oz.
Instead, wisdom is finding out who your friends are. Wisdom is realizing that you do have a brain and a heart, and that courage lies within you. Wisdom is learning that there is no place like home. Calamities and misfortunes come at you. Would that your house did not land on the wrong witch. They sometimes do; it did, and now you have made an enemy of another witch. This stuff happens in life, though in a different way outside of Oz. But remember, misfortune is wisdom knocking, wherever you might be.
Then there is the dialogue, and if wisdom has a school, this is it. “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” And I ask you please, to not presume you already know the answer to that question. “You have always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself.” “Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t they?” “Now I know I’ve got a heart, cause it’s breaking.” Finally, in the silence, wisdom steps in. Dorothy has met misfortune in Oz, and her friends have taught her many facts about this strange place, and they have helped her find her way through it. But still she needs the silence of sleep, before she is ready to return to Kansas, before she is ready to make her way through the world all the wiser, because she has been to Oz.
The parables, or stories Jesus told, impact wisdom, not facts about the world. The story of the wise and foolish virgins teaches that Jesus is the bridegroom whom you await, the wisdom you seek. Jesus became the most misfortunate of men, so that you might encounter him in the troubles of your life. But even Jesus is only a notion until you sit with him in silence, until you allow him to be the bridegroom, the one your heart always sought. Jesus is the Way, Jesus is Truth, Jesus is Life. Jesus is the Wisdom you seek, even before you began to learn how to make it through this world.