Comment (15th February 2009)
Both these passages speak about ‘the beginning’, the time when God started creating the universe. Both passages have a poetic flavour: Wisdom is personified, the Word becomes flesh. What do they say to us?
The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about wisdom and its opposite, folly. Wisdom in the Bible is not the same as knowledge or intelligence. It is about knowing how to make the best of a situation, whether that be how to live life, or how to make a piece of furniture. A good relationship with God is an essential ingredient of wisdom, for without that one cannot know the best course of action: ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’. The whole book is designed to help people learn to be wise, and wisdom is depicted as standing in the streets calling to people to come to her and find true riches.
The passage that is our first reading takes the picture one stage further: Wisdom is depicted in personal terms, close to God from the beginning of time, delighting in what God is doing, especially in his creation of humanity. If anyone should know how to get the best out of life, Wisdom should. The message is that when students listen to wisdom from a teacher, they are listening to wisdom that originates from God.
The familiar passage from John echoes that thought. ‘In the beginning was the Word’. John deliberately points back to Genesis 1 and the story of creation, when God spoke and the universe came into being. Words spoken with authority can change situations: ‘I therefore proclaim that they are husband and wife.’ Words can reveal our inmost thoughts and feelings. Words involve us; not only do we have to use our brains, our lungs, our voices, but often we have to stand by or account for what we say. Our words are part of our lives. So John can say, ‘The Word was with God, and the Word was God.’
Creation did not happen just because God spoke some words. The ‘Word’ was more than God’s commands. The ‘Word’ was an agent through whom God brought into being the universe with its matter and biological and spiritual life. The amazing thing is that the Word who was there before time began, God’s agent in creation, became flesh and lived among us – Jesus of Nazareth. And the whole purpose of his coming among us was to begin a new creation, which would culminate in a new heaven and earth. His resurrection started it; and we too are part of the process, for he gives us who believe new life, through a divine birth into God’s own family.
Creation is happening again, through the same Word that brought about the original creation. That Word reveals to us the true nature of God, it changes us, and through us changes our world. Light has shone in the darkness, and we are beckoned into it.
It is up to us to respond!
1) What do these passages have to say about who Jesus really was?
2) How do we ‘receive’ Jesus (v.12)? What difference does it make?