32nd Sunday in ordinary time: Lessons of life

Today’s readings: Wisdom 6,12-16; 1 Thessalonians 4,13-18; Matthew 25, 1-13.

Wisdom is the one thing that makes our life most sensible. It makes us resourceful, alert to what’s happening not only around us, but most­ly inside us. It is something you either have or you don’t. The gospel parable of the 10 bridesmaids with their lamps, five of whom were foolish and five sensible, shows that when it really matters, it may happen that we are not ready.

Wisdom, someone wrote, consists not so much in knowing what to do in the ultimate as in knowing what to do next. There are moments in life, experiences we go through and circumstances we find ourselves in, when not even those dearest from our circle of friends will be able to provide us the wisdom we need.

Wisdom can only be acquired through a process of maturity, which in turn depends not on acquisition of knowledge but on our interior dispositions and attitudes. Knowledge can be sought just by googling or acquired through study. Wisdom is something else.

The first reading from the Book of Wisdom personifies wisdom, and affirms that “By those who love her, she is readily seen, and found by those who look for her”. It is actually the love and desire for wisdom that makes of us sensible people. Contrarily, if the heart’s desires are for futile things that satisfy and fill the heart merely in the immediate, that is sheer foolishness.

Theologian David Ford writes about the channels through which wisdom is passed on to us. “Perhaps,” he writes, “the ultimate privilege is to have wise parents, teachers and friends in a wise community of heart.” But if these channels are clogged, polluted or shallow, then the whole moral ecology is affected.

In life we need to develop for ourselves personally, criteria of judgment about what foolishness and sensibility are and where the demarcation line is between being foolish and being sensible. The reading from Wisdom says that wisdom “herself walks about looking for those who are worthy of her”. So a major challenge we all face in life is to render ourselves worthy of wisdom. We also need to ask: What is it that makes us worthy of wisdom?

Through the parable of the 10 bridesmaids, Jesus provides scenarios from everyday life and possible responses to questions that many a time are provoked by our impatience or by our tendency to go for easy-fix solutions. The gospel is not referring to moments of foolishness, or ruts we may, at times, enter but out of which we may find our way out after a rethinking. The gospel is rather concerned about foolishness as a permanent state of affairs, at times even as a choice in life, that have permanent consequences and leave us no space for rethinking. In the absence of wisdom, we learn no lessons, we keep repeating the same old mistakes, we simply remain stuck with no possibility of growth.

We live in a culture of immediacy, with hardly time to think, let alone rethink. It takes nothing to tweet, to post a comment, to react on the spur of the moment. Yet many a time we realise only when it is too late that we would have done better not to react at all. All this makes us the more vulnerable, unresourceful. Like the foolish maids we have a lamp with no supply of oil to give us light in the darkness when we mostly need that light.

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