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Thinking Anew – Words and wisdom

We read in the Bible that “wisdom is bright, and does not grow dim”

Anyone who saw the RTÉ Investigates exposé on overcrowded, unsafe and unsanitary lettings last Thursday week has to be appalled at how anyone could treat people in such a manner.

Yes, we see wrongdoing, crime, sheer evil on our television screens, in newspapers, on social media every day of the week. It’s usually in far-off places but when it’s happening in suburbs of our capital city it makes it ever so real and tangible.

The day before the RTÉ programme, in Washington, US president Donald Trump called Sayfullo Saipov, the alleged perpetrator of the Manhattan terrorist attack, an “animal”. He was speaking at the beginning of a cabinet meeting of which the first 18 minutes were open to the media. For the majority of the 18 minutes, the president of the most powerful democratic country in the world spewed out nasty and venomous words. He was surrounded by powerful and influential people, the overwhelming majority of them men. They all sat there and not a single word of objection from anyone. Maybe not even a telltale sign of discomfiture. The clip is available on Twitter. It was a shocking show of vulgarity.

Where are we, what have we done? What has brought us to this?

Last Saturday I witnessed an altercation between a pedestrian and the driver of a van at the junction of Nicholas Street and High Street in Dublin’s south inner city. The pedestrian felt aggrieved, even though he did walk out in front of the van. All the usual signs of anger; shouting, vulgar gestures and that belief and conviction that “I’m right and you’re wrong”. The lights changed, the warring parties separated and it was all over. Or was it? Those sort of interactions can’t help our psyche. Surely they stay with us and indeed play a part in making and shaping us.

Social media relentlessly spews out nasty and vile tales about people. And the nastiest of all are done under the cover of anonymity.

Has it always been as bad as this or have we just become aware of it because of the powers of communication?

The Bible might be the top-selling book on the planet. It’s read every day in places of worship around the world. Scripture scholars have an intimate and professional understanding of it but for most people it can be very much a hit-and-miss experience. We can easily use the occasional and apposite quote to justify our plan of action.

The first reading tomorrow is from the Book of Wisdom (6: 12 -16) also known as the Wisdom of Solomon. It was written approximately 50 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. We read that “wisdom is bright, and does not grow dim. By those who love her she is readily seen, and found by those who look for her.”

The Jerusalem Bible tells us that the wisdom of mankind is set in perspective with the wisdom of God. All wisdom comes from God since she/he alone is wise.

Those lines from TS Eliot make sense:“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?/Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

Indeed, wisdom may well be elusive; how do you define the wise woman or man? And yet when we see and experience it, it is a delight to behold.

Our world, our streets, our people need a touch of wisdom right now. Sometimes reading the Word of God in that great book we call the Bible we might well be inspired to be people of wisdom, people of grace, who look out for one another and in doing so behave in a kind, gentle and wise way.

In tomorrow’s Gospel (Matthew 25: 1– 13) we read about the 10 bridesmaids, five of whom are wise and five foolish. At the end of the day the five wise bridesmaids find success and happiness.

When we make an effort to do what is wise and right, when our goal is to do good to other people, surely we are on the road to God, who is wisdom.