Reflection for February, 2018
In his prayer for the success of the gatherings seeking a reform of our Order, Bishop Lafitte urged us to beg God to “look tenderly upon your children as they turn to You to receive the Gift of Your Wisdom.” As we consider this petition, we may be surprised to learn that spiritual wisdom is not what we commonly associate with intelligence and study.
Rather, spiritual Wisdom is faith made perfect, the intellect guided directly by the Holy Spirit to gain entry into the very life of God. This is the gift that allows us to penetrate what one author names “all the wonderful intimacies of God with [us], all the mystical nuptials of the saints, all the woundings of their hearts through the arrow of divine love….” This is what St. Paul revels in when he cries out, in his Letter to the Romans, “O the depths of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!” (Rom. 11:33)
God’s Spirit dwells within us, and offers us, no less than St. Paul the same capacity to grasp who He is. The means by which we do so is the gift of Wisdom. Thus, one Dominican writer from the last century concludes,
The inspiration of wisdom is nothing less than a movement of the Holy Spirit through which he communicates to us by way of the heart, as it were, an experience of the heavenly vision.
What the Gift of Wisdom enables us to see is God Himself, the object of our faith. But we do not see with our physical eyes, or with our intellect. The Spirit’s gift of sight is a gift that enlightens the heart. To be sure, this is no more than a “preview” of what we look forward to enjoying fully in heaven, but it is an experience that soars above anything else we can know, understand or feel of or about God while we are still on earth. Those who took part in the Order’s recent meetings in Rome may not have fully appreciated the nobility of their task, but this enlightening of the heart is what we prayed God would grant them.
And if our prayers are answered? We might imagine an experience of God’s gift of Wisdom to bring forth celebrations of joy, but we are assured by the saints who have enjoyed this vision that the only response is one of awed silence in which we are aware of nothing but God’s presence and our complete nothingness. To the extent God answers our prayers, Wisdom will confer upon those charged with the reform of the Order an experience of the utmost humility.
The 19th Century British prelate, Henry Cardinal Manning, offers a concrete example of the Gift of Wisdom in action. He wrote that Wisdom purifies charity, ordering it so that we first love God, then ourselves, then our neighbor. And he added that “There are some among us who have a greater facility in acquiring the gift of wisdom than others.” These are children and the poor. Children because they have not had the chance to sin; the poor because Wisdom casts out pride, and makes us realize our nothingness in comparison to God. We might not have considered this as we prayed our novena, and we may imagine how little those engaged in the conversations in Rome thought of their efforts as an opportunity to identify with the poor, but The Gift of Wisdom opens our ears to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor,” He tells us, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” These words invite challenge all of us, perhaps especially our sisters and brothers who represented us in Rome to cultivate a spirit of voluntary poverty in which we realize that we need be nothing because God is “all in all.”
– Fr. Reginald Martin, O.P.