Wisdom is a Breath of the Might of God

“For she is a breath of the might of God and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled can enter into her.” (Wisdom 7:25)

Luca Giordano, “The Dream of Solomon,” c. 1694
Luca Giordano, “The Dream of Solomon,” c. 1694 (photo: Public Domain)

The first gift of the Holy Spirit, the pearl of great price, is wisdom. Wisdom appeals, as the Catechism says, to both the heart and the mind. But our sinful nature often refuses it. We all know people who are wise, but do we listen to them? We know books that contain wisdom, but do we read them and reread them and reflect on them? Do we apply what we know to be wise? 

No. Not always. Not when it inconveniences or irritates us. Not when it’s hard. Not when it means we’d have to give up some habit we like, some stance we think we’re justified in holding, some sin we want to allow for.

As Saint Paul says, “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.” He recognizes that he knows what is good, and recognizes that his will is disordered. It does not accord with wisdom, even though it knows what is good.

We likewise should recognize our own propensity to disorder, for we are supposed to not merely seek wisdom but integrate it, apply it, live it.

What does wisdom look like? How do we seek it?

In the Old Testament, we see God’s gift of wisdom at work in the judgment of Solomon, where King Solomon reveals the mother’s heart. We see it in the judgment of Daniel when he questions the unjust judges who testify against Susanna.

Wisdom is the gift of seeking the truth in charity. Wisdom is knowing when to speak and when to listen. Wisdom is doing God’s work in the moment, following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom is recognizing God’s still small voice in the whisper.

In the New Testament, wisdom is hearing Jesus speaking to us in each situation, and with every word. This is most important these days, when access to the sacraments is limited.

But Jesus tells us, “I will give you an Advocate.” And that friend is the Holy Spirit, offering us the gifts to know God, to love God, to serve God, and to trust ever more deeply in the goodness of God. 

Like all gifts from God, wisdom must be accepted. God offers but never forces us to take his gifts. The Holy Spirit is always there, whispering to us. It’s like we prefer the oysters to the pearls because we don’t yet see the value of the pearls.

Ask the Holy Spirit each day how not to grieve him, and the Holy Spirit will show you. Love asks for self-sacrifice, for a molding of my will, my scratchy irritable reluctant stubborn will, to the will that is love, that is God’s. This is true for each of us, and that’s why wisdom, when we know what God’s will is, in our hearts and in our minds, is a gift to us. And when we finally say “Yes,” it is our gift back to God.