Pearls of wisdom

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
JACKSON – The Scripture readings for last Sunday featured the prayer of the young Solomon taking over the reins from his father David as Israel’s king. The task ahead of him was daunting and in his encounter with God in a dream he was inspired to pray humbly and honestly. “I pray that you grant me wisdom of heart so that I may know how to govern your people and distinguish between right and wrong. Without wisdom who would be able to govern rightly?“

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

In the Hebrew scriptures, the Old Testament, there is a corpus of literature that is categorized as Wisdom Literature. These fascinating books of the bible were written over hundreds of years in the post exilic era. The Book of Wisdom features a prayer attributed to Solomon that reveals his heart and mind and his dependency upon God, at least in the earlier years of his reign. “God of our fathers, wisdom resides with you and knows all your works, from creation to this moment. She knows what is pleasing to you and in accord with your commandments. Send forth this wisdom from on high where all is holy that she may be at my side in my labors so that I may know what is pleasing to you. May she guide me with prudence in all that I do that I may guide your people justly. For who knows God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and uncertain our plans. For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthly vessel weighs down the mind with its many concerns. Who can know your counsel unless you give wisdom and send your holy spirit from on high?” (Chapter 9)

The wisdom of Solomon, anchored in prayer, is a path for all who are making decisions that affect the lives of others during these agonizing pandemic days. This includes just about everybody, our elected officials, all who are serving in health care, business owners on every front, educators and students, church leaders, and parents and caregivers who decide on behalf of their children. In the gospel passage last weekend we heard the words of the Lord at the conclusion of the section on the parables in Matthew’s Gospel. “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of the household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” (13:52-53)

We must go deeply into the storehouse of our faith and experience to call upon time tested wisdom to negotiate all that is new, spiritually, mentally and materially. The world has not seen such a pandemic in over 100 years, and these are unchartered waters where the next bend in the rapids might present unexpected risks. We walk by faith, indeed.

Wisdom, the cornerstone of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, is not just about choosing wisely. The wisdom literature is vast, as is evident in the books of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, Wisdom, the Psalms and the Song of Songs. The themes from these inspired works have their origin in life’s joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, and in the reality of death. The book of Job wrestles with the agonizing question of suffering, especially when it afflicts an innocent person. Always a part of life, today we are witnessing widespread suffering and anxiety. For all disciples, the wisdom in the Book of Job finds its fulfillment in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the Cross, and his resurrection from the dead. May all who are suffering exceedingly find renewed strength and hope in the God of our Lord Jesus Christ for this life and the next.

In last Sunday’s Gospel Jesus speaks about the pearl of great price and the treasure buried in a field. As St. Matthew constructed his Gospel he knew that he had found this pearl and treasure when the Lord looked at him with loving mercy and called him to abandon his way of life in order to proclaim a treasure hidden to him up until that moment. He who previously had oppressed his people with the ledger, now was providing light and hope with the living Word of God. In the midst of this world-wide crisis may the loving gaze of the Lord Jesus empower us to respond with wisdom and conviction to what life is serving us.

St. Paul gifted us with a pearl of great value and wisdom in the second reading from last Sunday. “All things work for good for those who love God.” (Romans 8:28) By God’s grace may we deepen our faith, hope and love during this time of crisis, an opportunity to value the things that truly matter.

Bishop calendar

Thursday, Aug. 6, 6 p.m. – Pro-Life Mississippi Banquet, Jackson
Saturday, Aug. 29-30 – Mission Appeal, Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Only public events are listed on this schedule and all events are subject to change. Please check with the local parish for further details.