First Reading: Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4:4

A Question of Wisdom

Why is the "common wisdom" sometimes so wrong? Who are the truly wise in our society?

9 "'Hear, Israel, the commandments of life; listen, to understand wisdom. 10 How has it happened, Israel, that you are in your enemies' land, that you have grown old in a strange country, that you are defiled with the dead, 11 that you are counted with those who go down into the grave? 12 You have forsaken the fountain of wisdom. 13 For if you had walked in the way of God, you would have dwelt in peace for ever. 14 Learn, where is wisdom, where is strength, where is understanding, so that you may know also where is length of days and life, where is the light of the eyes and peace. 15 Who has found out her place? Or who has come into her treasures?

World English Bible

These verses represent a shortened version of a psalm written to Wisdom. Even though this passage was attributed to Baruch, assistant to the prophet Jeremiah, the style of this psalm indicates it was written in the second century B.C. in Hebrew. By this time, the Jews had absorbed the esteem given to the virtue of wisdom by the dominate Greek culture. In fact, many Jewish writers emulated the Greek notion that Wisdom had some sort of existence apart from God.

The author of Baruch tried to answer the age-old question the Jews had: why did God allow the Babylonian Exile and the destruction of the nation? Unlike the Pharisees who answered the question with a strict adherence to the Law, this author appealed to a lack of wisdom in the nation. Why did the Jews live as aliens in a world that had no life for them? They failed to follow the ways of wisdom found in the Law.

God created the universe through his wisdom. In fact, that wisdom seemed to saturate all creation. And, wisdom was his gift to his people through the patriarchs. The Law and the Prophets were merely outward manifestations of a much greater legacy. The promises God made to the patriarchs was wisdom itself!

So, why did God allow the Exile? The answer was simple. The people abandoned their tradition, their birthright, their God's wisdom. Returning to the Law and hearing the Prophets was a step back towards wisdom. This virtue that had its own existence was the Law and the Prophets! Those who sought wisdom did so through the Bible. This was the glory of the people.

What is our primary spiritual virtue? Certainty of dogma? Psychological relief of forgiveness? Have we demoted wisdom as a religious virtue?

Where is wisdom in your personal hierarchy of virtues?