O Sapientia: O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.
We are a people constantly in seek of Wisdom, both as individuals and as People of God. Pope Francis has said repeatedly that the entire Church is a missionary disciple, a disciple who “needs to grow in her interpretation of the revealed word and in her understanding of truth.” It is interesting to think of the entire People of God in this way: as a singular disciple on mission. Just as I, as an individual Christian disciple, need constantly to grow in understanding, so too does the entire Church. The Pope reminds those of us who serve in the ministry of theology: “It is the task of exegetes and theologians to help ‘the judgment of the Church to mature.'” This is a quote taken directly from the Second Vatican Council’s monumental Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum, #12).
We celebrate the O Antiphons this year in the context of an Extraordinary Year of Mercy. Today we seek the wisdom of God to rededicate ourselves to mercy which is, according to Pope Francis, “the beating heart of the Gospel.” This call for a broad and diverse search for wisdom once again calls upon the wisdom of the whole Tradition of the Church, with this particular section supported by an extensive reference to St. Thomas Aquinas; Pope Francis will call to mind the example of St. John XXIII who says essentially the same thing. Wisdom, in short, is not “monolithic”, nor is it a hoard of theological propositions known in fullness and waiting only to be transmitted verbatim and intact to succeeding generations, cultures and peoples. The pope writes, in #41: “Today’s vast and rapid cultural changes demand that we constantly seek ways of expressing unchanging truths in a language which brings out their abiding newness. ‘The deposit of the faith is one thing, the way it is expressed is another.'” That is the voice of St. John XXIII, exhorting the world’s bishops at the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Francis cautions that when some people “hold fast to a formulation [which] fails to convey its substance,” we can — with every good intention — “sometimes give them a false god or a human ideal which is not really Christian.” He then cites St. John Paul II, who wrote that “the expression of truth can take different forms. The renewal of these forms of expression becomes necessary for the sake of transmitting to the people of today the Gospel message in its unchanging meaning.” Now apply these thoughts to God’s mercy: what are the myriad concrete ways we might find to be merciful in our own lives? Mercy is a constant; the ways we convey that mercy are limitless.
We have already seen in earlier posts how the pope is committed to helping the Church recover her missionary purpose, and that this mission is not only to reach everyone in a general way, but in very concrete ways which are understandable to all people today, regardless of culture or history or age. Past ages found beautiful and creative ways of expressing eternal truths in their own day and time; we must not do the same for our own, and not merely try to repeat the brilliant work of the past which may no longer be capable of communicating truth as it once did. And specifically, we search for ways to communicating God’s truth through acts of mercy.
As we move more intently into our final preparations for celebrating the coming of Christ anew into our lives, how well do I express my faith to others in ways that are full of meaning, promise and hope? What about our parish: What customs do we continue to hold onto which — if we were truly honest with each other — no long seem to be capable of expressing the truth of our relationship with Christ and our responsibility to the world around us. Honestly review our lives as individuals and as parish, and then reflect: Do we unduly “burden” those around us? Do we have the courage to let go and to let God inspire us with Divine Wisdom in finding new ways to proclaim the Christ to the world. For those of us who serve as deacons, do we continue to grow, not only as disciples, but in our ministerial competence? Are we open to new ideas, even when those ideas may be challenging to our former ways of thought? “O Wisdom” is a title given to Christ today; may our own relationship with Wisdom give us the freedom and courage to find new ways of sharing God’s truth and mercy.