First Reading: Wisdom 11:22-12:2

Return, Sinner

How is the idea of repentance daunting?

22 Because the whole world before you is as a grain in a balance,
And as a drop of dew that at morning comes down upon the earth.
23 But you have mercy on all men, because you have power to do all things,
And you overlook the sins of men to the end they may repent.
24 For you love all things that are,,
And abhor none of the things which you did make;,
For never would you have formed anything if you did hate it.,
25 And how would anything have endured, except you had willed it?
Or that which was not called by you, how would it have been preserved?
26 But you spare all things, because they are your,
O Sovereign Lord, you lover of men's lives;
12:1 For your incorruptible spirit is in all things.
2 Wherefore you convict by little and little them that fall from the right way,
And, putting them in remembrance by the very things wherein they sin, do you admonish them,
That escaping from their wickedness they may believe on you, O Lord.

World English Bible

The book of Wisdom is also known as the "Wisdom of Solomon," which honored the wisest of all Israeli monarchs, Solomon. Written toward the end of the intertestamental period (100 B.C to 100 A.D.), this book praised the ultimate virtue in Greek culture: wisdom. The author held that wisdom was not only an instrument of God, it had many of the personal qualities that Christians claimed for the "Logos."

The book offers us a unique look into Diaspora Jews who were striving to integrate the world views of two cultures. Their Jewish belief system held the cosmos was a creation of God; hence it was "good." The Neo-Platonism of the host culture saw reality through the lens of duality; the universe was divided into two realms: spirit (which was good and superior) and matter (which was evil or inferior); humanity was a creature caught in the middle. While this summary is a gross simplification of the cultures, it does give us an overview to the challenges these "Hellenistic" Jews faced. How could someone hold creation was good (including matter) while addressing the Greek culture at large? The answer was simple: reduce the language of duality to the realm of morality. The righteous would be led by God's wisdom into an immortal life, while the evil who rejected such wisdom were condemned to non-existence. This view was evident in these few passages from Wisdom.

The author portrayed God as a Master looking over his creation from a vast distance. In this sense, the author painted the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the One of supreme power and love. Precisely because of this power and love, God can chastise the immoral with patience; God can bridge the chasm between the righteous and the sinner; God can reinstate the repentant sinner to a place of honor.

Implicitly, the author gave the sinner hope, when the general culture had a pessimistic outlook. For the Jews, the source of immorality was the person endowed with free will. For the Greeks, the source of immorality lie with the gods themselves. Judaism held out the possibility to live a moral life. Hellenistic common wisdom offered no such possibility; it was fatalistic.

Even after two millennium, the words from Wisdom still give us hope. With God's help and love, we can live a moral life. We can repent.

Reflect on God's love and power. How does that reflection give you hope in a world that seems to lack such an outlook?