Sunday Reflection: Immaturity

I'll focus on the first reading today, since it features a character, Wisdom, who is unusual in several respects. Firstly, Wisdom (Sophia in Greek) is a female character from the Old Testament. That makes her interesting enough. Also she is an allegorical one. Thirdly, she is closely related to the principle which John writes about in his Gospel -- the Word made Flesh. In fact, this closeness of identification has promted Christian theologians and scholars to relate, if not equate the two.

In the first reading from Proverbs, we see Wisdom inviting the simple into her abode:
Wisdom has built her house,
she has set up her seven columns;
she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine,
yes, she has spread her table.
She has sent out her maidens; she calls
from the heights out over the city:
“Let whoever is simple turn in here;
To the one who lacks understanding, she says,
Come, eat of my food,
and drink of the wine I have mixed!
Forsake foolishness that you may live;
advance in the way of understanding.”

This hearty invitation echoes the ways of another woman of Proverbs -- the prostitute (see Proverbs 6) who also entices the simple, but into sin, and nothing more:
And I saw among the simple ones, I observed among the young men, a youth with no sense,
Going along the street near the corner, then walking in the direction of her house--
In the twilight, at dusk of day, at the time of the dark of night.

It's difficult not to contrast these two women and the worldviews they represent. Both entice the simple, but only one feeds them. Both invite, but only one fulfills.

What role does the prostitute play? Yes, she is the one who tempts the weak to indulge in sins of the flesh. But Wisdom’s does not condemn the simple for being sinful. She invites them to put away immaturity. What about the way of the prostitute is immature? Viewed literally, the prostitute invites men to share in pleasure without the concomitant responsibility. Men can enjoy her body without having to do the hard work of establishing a relationship with her. Their pleasure comes at little cost to themselves. They are encouraged not to think of the prostitute as a person, but as a pleasing collection of body parts. She can feign interest in them and claim to be impressed by their virility, but there’s nothing real there. If they are really dull, being with the prostitute does not require them to face their dullness. If they are unattractive, being with her allows them to pretend to be handsome. The men who frequent the prostitute play a game that allows them to hide from themselves. They choose to keep in the dark about their shortcomings.

No wonder she works “in the twilight, in the disk of the day”!

Wisdom, on the other hand is all light. Her house is prominent and her call is public. There is nothing hidden about her. In contrast to the prostitute who keeps the immature from growing, Wisdom seeks to change the simple into the wise. She seeks to advance them in the way of understanding. She seeks to move her charges from the way they have lived into new and more fruitful ways.

Unlike the prostitute, who offers the same weary sensation time after time, Wisdom calls us to a banquet that is ever varying and ever changing. The feast she offers is one that takes in experiences far beyond the familiar and the commonplace. She offers to introduce us to the whole world, made also in God's image, populated by his people, at a table that stretches from east to west and from north to south. The experience of all people is her menu. And the wisdom of the world is at her disposal. Come, taste the wonder that lives in the lives of your neighbors. Learn of their ways, dance their dance and share in the banquet of their lives. Take a step outside of yourself, not to indulge in immature pleasures that last but a moment, but to deepen your love and appreciation of those you hardly know.

Do we find ourselves in the immature rut of doing that is repetitive, dull or leaves us empty? Or do we find ourselves in an equally foolish habit of following every new fad and forbidden act? Either way, we have become customers of the prostitute’s lure toward the merely carnal.

The way of Wisdom is of a banquet that fulfills. It is not necessarily a popular eatery or a cheap one either. But it changes us, stretches us and brings us new ways to see ourselves, our neighbors and our Maker. Wisdom calls from the parapets in the full light of day. Will we heed her call, or prefer the slinking shadows that lead us toward the futile repetition of past pleasures. Will we find ourselves advancing in the ways of Wisdom, or as Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote, will we find that “Life isn't one damn thing after another. It's the same damn thing again and again.”