President John Garvey of The Catholic University of America delivered his final commencement remarks this past weekend. He’s stepping down next month as president after 12 years and Peter Kilpatrick will assume the presidency. President Garvey spoke on wisdom:
I was struck by President Garvey’s mentioning of Job 28. MaryKate and I chose this for the First Reading at our Wedding in September, specifically Job 28:12-15, 23-28:
But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know the way to it, and it is not found in the land of the living. The deep says, “It is not in me,” and the sea says, “It is not with me.” It cannot be gotten for gold, and silver cannot be weighed as its price. … God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth, and sees everything under the heavens. When he gave to the wind its weight, and meted out the waters by measure; when he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder; then he saw it and declared it; he established it, and searched it out. And he said to man, “Behold, the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”
Job comes to realize that despite his righteousness he nonetheless falls short of the glory of God, in what I read as a sort of foreshadowing of the necessity of God’s gratuitous grace for our hope of salvation. Job’s challenge to God amidst the ruins of his life, amidst his suffering and loss, is the pitiable challenge of “a faultfinder contend[ing] with the Almighty.” Job’s humility and repentance in the sight of God, the author and source of all life, all goodness, is the beginning of wisdom:
Job answered the LORD: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Humility sets us on the path home to God, a radical path that requires the continual humbling of our powerful but frail ego in order to attain the happiness upon which no sun sets.