A homily for November 12

















I’m away for two weeks and had no preaching assignment for today but I scanned the archives and found this homily which I preached 6 years ago.  What struck me was that its introduction is, unfortunately, as apt for this past week as it was in 2017.  (Here are the readings for this Sunday.)

A dad in the parish emailed me this
past week and wrote: It’s been a really tough couple of weeks of
tragedy witnessed by all of us and especially our kids.  I’ve
found my own teens far more agitated than normal, more argumentative and,
given all the bad news, questioning the whole “God thing. » I know
that talking about it with them is the best thing to do but I have no great
eloquence or answers or solutions…I pray God help us all find the words to


Well, I don’t think you have to be the
parent of teenagers to understand what this dad is writing about. And I
don’t think you have to be a teenager for the daily headlines to cause you
to wonder, “So where’s God in all this mess?”


Like the dad who wrote to me, I
don’t claim any particular eloquence, much less do I pretend to have answers
and solutions for the problems of the day. Like you, perhaps, I would love to
have more wisdom about these things. I’d love to have the wisdom – if not to
solve today’s problems – then to understand them in a way that would deepen my
faith and not weaken it or cause me to question it.


Would that Lady Wisdom in today’s
first reading would pay us all a visit. Seems to me it’s time she came calling
on us. I certainly see no traces of her in the headlines or in social media. If
anything, it’s the absence of wisdom in our midst that’s most
striking. And I’m not talking about the kind of “wisdom” that folks on one side
of an issue claim to have over their opponents on the other side. I’m
talking about a wisdom deeper than the partisan divide, a wisdom beyond the
terms of our debates, a wisdom that takes us by surprise in its simplicity, its
selflessness and its truth.


I don’t claim to be a very wise person
but I’m sure of this: the wisdom we need, the wisdom we long for, is not
something we ourselves will ever devise or invent. Rather, the wisdom our world
needs is a gift and its source, though not beyond our reach, is eternal.


If we put all our faith and trust and
hope in our fellow human beings, I’m confident we can expect to be
disappointed. As it sometimes is with love, we often look for wisdom “in all
the wrong places.”


But if we hope to critically
understand the times in which we live and find a way to move beyond tragedy to
triumph, we need a wisdom far greater than our native human discernment will
ever, on its own, be able to offer us. We need that “resplendent and unfading wisdom
“promised in today’s first scripture. And she is closer to hand than we might
imagine.  We read that “she is readily perceived by those who love her and
found by those who seek her.”


So, before we dismiss all this as
pious prattle, let’s ask ourselves, each of us:

• Do I indeed seek wisdom?  

• Do I want, do I desire,  do I look for a wisdom greater than my own, greater
than the thinking of all those who think like me,  who agree with me?

• Do I look for a wisdom that might
surprise me when I find it – when I discover that wisdom has been seeking me,
and seeking me more earnestly than I have been seeking her?

• And If I’m not looking
for wisdom, seeking her out, will I not miss her when she comes calling at my
door? in my heart? in my thoughts? in my choices and decisions?

• What if wisdom comes and I’m
too busy to answer the door, or too lazy, or too convinced of my own opinions –
and I miss her arrival?


And that brings us to the wedding
scene in today’s gospel where there are ten bridesmaids, only five of whom were
wise enough to be ready to receive the bridegroom when he came calling for
his bride. The other five, in their foolishness, were caught unprepared. If
we’re waiting for human ingenuity to resolve the world’s problems, if we
believe that holding out for our side in the debate is the pathway to truth, if
we believe we have in ourselves all the wisdom we need – then we mock the whole
of recorded history in which, to date, humanity has yet to find, on its own,
what it needs to make all things right.


The wisdom we seek is a wisdom deeper
than our partisan divisions. Lady Wisdom is beyond the paltry terms of our debates,
and she offers us a wisdom that will take us by surprise in its simplicity, its
selflessness, and its truth.


The foolish and unprepared often
dismiss true wisdom because in their estimation, it is too simple, too naïve. The
foolish and the unprepared often reject genuine wisdom because it asks of them
more than they’re prepared to give. And the foolish and the unprepared shy away
from raw wisdom because it often confronts them with uncomfortable truth. In
which group of bridesmaids, then, do you and I find each other?


As I said, I don’t consider myself a
particularly wise man, much less do I pretend to have solutions for our times
problems. But I hope and pray I have enough
wisdom to know that any wisdom worthy of that name comes not from me – and
not from us – but from God and that we would be wise, like those five bridesmaids,
to wait for the Lord and be prepared for when he shines the light of wisdom
upon us.


I hope these reflections might help
the dad who emailed me talk with his teens about the mess the world is in, the
“God-thing” – and our need for a wisdom greater than our own. On the other
hand, I’m 70 (editor’s note: now 76) years old and I’m still learning to be ready to answer when wisdom knocks on the door of my heart and shines on my mind and its


Perhaps the best we can do is to
acknowledge how foolish we can be and how foolish we have been. Acknowledging
our foolish ways may be the beginning of wisdom – whether we’re 70 or 17 years


The scriptures also tell us that Lady
Wisdom has “…built herself a house She has set her table, prepared her food,
and mixed her wine; To those who lack understanding she says, ‘Come, eat
of my food and drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake your foolishness and live
and walk in the way of understanding.’”


Wisdom’s table, the Lord’s Table,
stands in our midst. In our foolishness and with whatever wisdom is already
ours, we gather at this altar and pray to be nourished with wisdom, with the
gift of Christ Jesus who, in his wisdom, gave his life for us that we might
walk in his ways. 

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