By Lucille Dass
Wisdom has a name: Jesus (1 Cor.1:30). One hundred and one participants from island parishes came to seek wisdom at a session organised by the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit-Parish Formation Team (CHS-PFT).This eight-part video presentation by Jeff Cavins on “how to gather, gain, and grow in wisdom,” was followed up, for the first time, by gender-based small-group discussions led by PFT facilitators.
Before each session, participants had homework to do – read assignments (wisdom literature and CCC), respond to study questions (interpretation and application), and engage in four days of lectio divina with scripture on wisdom-based topics. A total of seven life-essential and practical topics formed the core material, besides the introduction: Wisdom in Decision-Making; Wisdom in Finances; Wisdom in Relationships; Wisdom for Peace of Mind; Wisdom in Speech; Wisdom in Age; Wisdom in Christ – the best though kept for last, informed all the rest!
Those familiar with Lorenzo Lotto’s The Nativity 1523 oil painting that depicts Jesus in the Crib in the foreground, with the crucified Christ on the Cross in the background, might agree that an initial reaction could be to categorise it as an anachronism. Upon reflection and closer appreciation, one realises that it encapsulates the wisdom of our faith – both the Crib and the Cross are gifts of redemption to us who believe and understand, but not so the worldly wise. That is why 1 Cor.3:19 cautions that worldly wisdom is foolishness before God. We need the wisdom of God to help us navigate life in all its aspects.
How to get wisdom? Jeff Cavins points to our scriptures. Begin at the beginning – Prov.4:7 exhorts us to get wisdom! James 1:5 says, ask for it! With wisdom comes all desired things according to Prov 3:13-18, while Prov 9:10 teaches that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs is our roadmap to better living, as many participants discovered. Many confessed that before this, they had not read much wisdom literature nor realised how applicable it was to real life.
During the testimony session, which was also held in gender-based groups, participants shared how they obtained specific insights to improve their way of life. For Marianne Teh, Helen Xavier, and Iruthaya Das, the session on wisdom in speech impacted them the most. Iruthaya reflected, “Speech is voluntary. We speak words of praise, thanksgiving and prayer, yet sometimes our choice of words or tone can be damaging to relationships and cause distress.” Carmelita Xavier shared how “walking in this world can easily influence us in the ways of the world so we need God’s wisdom which is special.” Indeed, his shield of wisdom guards us if we walk honestly (Prov.2:7-8).
It is noteworthy that both genders were generally pleased with the set-up for separate small-group discussions as they felt comfortable and uninhibited when sharing from the heart. An underlying message received by all is that our decisions and actions must adhere to God’s principles and not be based on personal preferences. Among others, Adeline Sum, Willie Goh, and James Ho attested to this. Adeline stressed on the need for total dependence on God in times of despair. “God works in our desperate situations, giving us peace of mind in our suffering.” Willie stressed on “acceptance of outcome no matter what our decisions or actions, because God knows best. Don’t despair or be too harsh on ourselves so long as we’ve given our best.” James cautions that acting according to our personal preferences is often “selfish, worldly, and short-sighted.”
Benjamin Franklin wisely said, “The doors of wisdom are never shut.” Yes, God’s wisdom is always reachable by all ages. It was heartening to observe the intermingling of the old and the young while learning from each other. This, as Regina Xavier pointed out, “helps us become more understanding.” Most participants pledged to continue reading wisdom literature, especially a proverb a day! Wisdom literature truly connects us to God’s wisdom and it is only in trying to reach for God that we actually reach God (Jer.29:13).