Who would you say is a truly wise person? Stephen Hawking? Probably most of us would agree that Stephen Hawking is truly wise. Despite his tremendous physical limitations, he is a world-renowned theoretical physicist complete with a type of radiation named after him that comes from black holes, as well as other scientific contributions. Of course, I’ve never met Stephen Hawking before so I don’t know that first hand. And, especially in this academic community, we know that there are people who intelligent who may not be very wise. There are, after all, different kinds of knowledge out there. Some people are incredibly book smart but not very street smart or vice versa. Someone may be very good with managing money but have no knowledge of how to take care of cars and property. And there’s always that academic that could wax on poetically about any subject you could ever want to know about but is such a jerk that you don’t even want to talk to him. I imagine we all have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to knowledge and the appropriation thereof. And, I may even go so far as to say that we all believe that our knowledge plays a very important part, if not the most important part, in making this world run smoothly and that, if more people just cared about the knowledge that we care about, the world would be a better place.
One of the traits that characterized the renaissance that, I fear, has been lost today was a sense of continuity in knowledge. In other words, if something was true for theology then it necessarily must be true for natural science. And, if something was true for sociology, then it must be true for law and theology and political science. And so forth. All too often, in contemporary civilization, either points of disagreemtn are seen as irreconcilable and, therefore, points of multiple truth or divergent sides of a chess match in which people must choose as to which competing truth they will believe. Either you are pro-evolution or pro-creation and never the twain shall meet. This view is not only myopic and unsatisfactory but it gives into a kind of hopelessness that politicians thrive on.
On this Trinity Sunday, the church attempts an answer to this conundrum of conflicting comprehensions. Last week, we spent some time talking about the Holy Spirit and the personal gifts She gives to individuals. Today we reflect on the gifts that She gives to all of creation, to believers, and to the church. I refer to the Holy Spirit in the feminine today because of the first reading from Proverbs which images wisdom as a woman. She was God’s first creation before anything else and, in the chapter previous to the one we heard, provided the Lord with a blueprint for the earth. It is the Holy Spirit who is begotten, or “possessed” to use the biblical image, by God and is portrayed as wisdom dancing before God to his delight. While this is probably a little too anthropomorphic for modern sensibilities, it speaks about the nature of the relationship of Father and Spirit that pre-exists the creation of human beings and exists as the basis of wisdom.
The Spirit is operative in the lives of believers because, according to the second reading, we who have faith have been given peace through Christ. This wisdom can seem to contradict the wisdom of the world in what it prizes. The world will tell us to look for what is comfortable and easy and the wisdom of the Spirit will tell you to find the peace of Christ amidst the trials and troubles of this world. We find our hope in Christ Jesus and the peace that he offers to us in the chaos of his death and resurrection. The wisdom given to the believer is faith regardless of the wisdom of the world that seems to stress comfort, safety, and security above all else. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not giving into the very multitude of truths that I’m positing do not exist inasmuch as acknowledging that, we who have been given faith and have appropriated that faith into our lives, are going to have certain expectations placed upon us in this life. This is not denying the continuity of wisdom inasmuch as acknowledging a multiplicity of ways that the Spirit expects us to respond to that wisdom.
As we hear in the gospel, all wisdom comes from God through Christ by the Holy Spirit. The wisdom that we receive was why Christ came into this world; to impart his wisdom to us, and to give glory to God through his wisdom. The Spirit, the giver of wisdom, will guide the church and enlighten the disciples to a fuller understanding of Christ, therefore giving glory to Christ. Thus, all wisdom comes, not from us, but from the Holy Spirit.
This demands a certain kind of humility, therefore, for all people and especially for the intellectual community. We cannot look at wisdom as something that we have to the exclusion of others. True wisdom has been given to us to use to the glory of God. If we are honestly discovering truths, we are learning more about God and God’s creation. It should put us into a greater relationship with the human community, not a lesser one, and call us into greater service of one another. I mean, after all, one of the most shocking things that we have learned in the last 2000 years is that God, who is one, is in a relationship of persons within the unity of himself. If even God, in this unity, is in a relationship of persons, we must see wisdom, the gift of the Spirit, as forcing us into relationship with one another.