The water that our hearts -- all hearts -- are longing for is the wisdom of the Lord, one of the great consolations of this life and its own delight.
We have seen such expressions of thirst! We have seen souls thirsting for justice; souls thirsting for freedom. Souls thirsting for truth; souls thirsting for transparency. We have seen souls thirsting for the highest things; thirsting for hope, thirsting for peace!
The words of the prophet Isaiah this Sunday will pierce our hearts. The prophet cries out, “All you who are thirsty, come to the water!” What is the water? The water is the wisdom and law of the Lord! Just as life cannot continue to exist without water, hearts will continue to cry out in search of the wisdom and law of the Lord.
What is wisdom? The book of Sirach begins with a truly remarkable poem. Sirach says,
All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.The sands of the sea, the drops of rain, the days of eternity—who can count them?Heaven’s height, earth’s extent, the abyss and wisdom—who can explore them?Before all other things wisdom was created; and prudent understanding, from eternity. (Sirach 1:1-4)
All wisdom comes from the Lord. Wisdom is the order of things given by the God who fashioned them. Wisdom is the knowing of the deepest things, the seeing of what truly is.
And what good is wisdom?
But what good is it? Why is it not more relevant? Why does it not speak to the news? What good is wisdom when the Capitol is attacked? What good is wisdom amidst a summer of riots and a global pandemic?
Wisdom is the balm of the soul. Wisdom is what the thirsty long for. Precisely because wisdom is ageless, before all other things, wisdom transforms our perspective. Wisdom is the knowledge of the cause of things. Just like the chief knowledge of an architect is the knowledge of the foundation, wisdom is knowing the cause upon which all other causes rest. For the Christian, wisdom is knowledge of God.
Wisdom, then is its own delight. Wisdom does not have to be applicable. Wisdom is itself joy. Not because it makes the wise soul better than others, but because the wise soul is united to the truth. Wisdom produces joy, like water quenches thirst.
How to be wise
But where does it come from? How is wisdom sought? Well, the highest wisdom is given. It is a gift from God. Wisdom is bestowed as one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, first given at our Baptism and strengthened in Confirmation.
This gift remains with every Christian who lives in the state of grace. Sin obscures wisdom, blinding us. SIn distracts the mind’s eye, directing a soul to examining unprofitable things. Grave sin cuts a soul off completely from the life of grace and the love of God. Since love is incompatible with sin, so is wisdom, which demands union in love.
Sirach tells us that wisdom is united to the commandments of God: “If you desire wisdom, keep the commandments, and the Lord will bestow her upon you” (Sirach 1:26). The law of the Lord instructs us in wisdom. By keeping God’s commandments we fashion in our hearts a ready place for wisdom to dwell. Even those precepts which seem difficult or even impossible to keep, especially these parts of the commandments direct our lives to higher things… to wisdom.
Wisdom is its own reward, it is true. But contemplation too offers delight. To marvel at God, to think of his wonderful law, to desire to know more from Him; this is contemplation!
Wisdom is one of the great consolations of this life. Despite unrest and trial and frustration and suffering… wisdom offers peace. It can be had in any soul. Thinking of things of God, nourishing this life by turning to Holy Scripture, the lives of the saints, books on prayer; all of these acts is far more rewarding than incessant doomscrolling!
Like John the Baptist, the wise soul has humility before God, trusting in God’s ways. The wise know that the Lord’s works are his own, and that the Lord alone delivers perfect justice and mercy.
Wisdom allows perspective. Wisdom allows us to see as God sees, to be unshaken, constant, devoted and faithful. Wisdom is a healing ointment, a medicine which soothes our soul. The wise soul tastes the goodness of God and knows that nothing else compares.
Wisdom is a Light
Wisdom is a light by which we see. Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote, in the lyrics to his famous hymn,
Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on! The night is dark, and I am far from home, Lead Thou me on! Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see The distant scene; one step enough for me.
Wisdom is the brightest light, directing the steps of our feet. It shines despite evil and wickedness, penetrating the shadows of our time. We do not see clearly now the entirety of the way, but it is enough for the disciple to know the next step.
Wisdom will Relieve our Thirst
In the here and now, what will quench our thirst? The way of the Lord! If we are baptized with him, we shall rise with him! (Romans 6:3-5). He is justice; He is freedom. He is transparency; He is truth. He is our hope; He is our peace!
A prayer to grow in spiritual wisdom