First Reading: Wisdom 9:13-18b

Wisdom to Live in Uncertain Times

13 For what man can learn the counsel of God?
Or who can discern what the Lord wills?
14 For the reasoning of mortals is worthless,
and our designs are likely to fail,
15 for a perishable body weighs down the soul,
and this earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind.
16 We can hardly guess at what is on earth,
and what is at hand we find with labor;
but who has traced out what is in the heavens?
17 Who has learned thy counsel, unless thou hast given wisdom
and sent thy holy Spirit from on high?
18 And thus the paths of those on earth were set right,
and men were taught what pleases thee,
and were saved by wisdom."

Revised Standard Version

Even in our own lifetime, great nations have risen and fallen. Great fortunes have been made and lost. Great people have been cut down before our eyes. Events just cannot be controlled. In this hopeless atmosphere, no wonder many people face the future with resignation.

The passages of the first reading come from the Wisdom of Solomon, a book written to an audience on the edge of despair. Living as a minority in Alexandria, Egypt, these Diaspora Jews were torn between their religious traditions and the general Greek culture. As a result of living in a foreign land in a foreign culture, the Jewish community in Alexandria suffered dissension and apostasy.

With the Wisdom of Solomon, the author tried to bridge the gap between the Jewish faith and a Greek culture of philosophy. Attributed to the wisest man in the history of Israel, King Solomon, the book proclaimed a philosophy of right living. At the center of this philosophy stood Lady Wisdom, the personified virtue who knew the mind of God.

The passage reflected the despair of the Jews in the city. Plans were unsure, physical existence were taxing, ignorance far outweighed knowledge. [9:13-16] But, as the author reminded his audience, God's Wisdom gives people a sure means to know God and live a ethical life. [9:17-18]

In the first centuries after the birth of Christ, Church Fathers equated Wisdom with the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we believe that Holy Spirit guides us in faith and right living. But, to know God's will for our lives requires prayer and discernment. The Spirit gives us urge to pray, the questions to ask, and the power to seek answers. The Spirit will guide us in a world full of indifference and hopelessness.

How do you pray for wisdom? How do you pray for the Spirit? How has God answered your prayers?