[Excerpted from the November December 2017 issue of Emmanuel. Barbara Shanahan is an alumna of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Illinois. She has led the Buffalo, New York, Catholic Bible Studies Program since 1992.]
Take note of the way Lady Wisdom is described in today’s first reading! She is resplendent, desirable, and attentive. Finding her brings prudence, the fullness of life, and freedom from cares. The encounter with Wisdom is not beyond our grasp; rather, she desires to give herself graciously to us. Those who love her watch for her, keeping vigil. She, in turn, will be readily found as she makes her rounds. As eager as Wisdom is to give of herself, possession of her will demand a committed effort, but the seeker won’t be disappointed as Wisdom lavishes her gifts generously.
Once one grasps Wisdom, what is it one possesses? In biblical thought, Wisdom has many facets. Wisdom, first, has a direct link to God. In some instances, Wisdom is a dimension or extension of God (see Prv 8:22ff). Wisdom is frequently referred to in the feminine or personified as a woman as in this passage. The simple explanation for this is that in both Hebrew and Greek, the word for Wisdom is a feminine noun (Hokmah in Hebrew and Sophia in Greek). In the text for today, we can see both of these aspects: the desirable, attentive woman and the one offering us the fullness of life in a way that God alone can do. Biblical writers are always trying to help us imagine, in human words, what God is like!