Column: True wisdom is not earned, but is a gift from God

Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

Father Mark Stubbs

Does vanity mean taking pride in one’s appearance? After all, the word can refer to a piece of furniture, a piece of furniture, a case to hold makeup and other cosmetics, to a person who is vain look pretty.

Then, the word “vanity” would point to a not-very-desirable personal characteristic. But that meaning lies at a very superficial level.

On the other hand, if we dig deeper, we can find a deeper meaning of the word, one more appropriate to Sunday’s first reading, Eccl 1:2, 2:21-23. Here, the word “vanity” appears seven times. The reading reflects upon the great toil that a person can engage in, only to leave the fruits of that labor to someone else. So, what’s the use? All is vanity. Here, the word “vanity” means a lack of meaning to life. It issues a judgement upon the whole of existence. It encapsulates the deep pessimism which pervades the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Nonetheless, Ecclesiastes does not seek to lead us to a dead end, a hopeless despair. Rather, by confronting us with the harsh realities of life, by a sober contemplation of the truth. it wishes to awaken us to wisdom. in that respect, Ecclesiastes seeks to keep us from taking pride in anything proceeding form our own human efforts.

Ultimately, true wisdom results, not from our own doing, but comes as a gift from God. That is why we call it one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Only that type of wisdom can escape the gloomy judgment pronounced by the Book of Ecclesiastes.

That is why it concludes with the words: “The last word, when all is heard: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man’s all; because God will bring to judgment every work, with all its hidden qualities, whether good or bad” (Eccl 12: 13-14).

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