Fr Bob writes: “When one finds a worthy wife, her value is beyond pearls…” (Proverbs 31:10)
The author, or better said, the compiler of the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament began by stating the purpose of the work: “that people may appreciate wisdom and discipline, understand words of intelligence, receive training in wise conduct (in what is right, just and honest), that resourcefulness be imparted to the simple, and knowledge and discretion to the young man, a wise man advance in learning, and an intelligence man gain sound guidance.” The study of wisdom, the artful discussion of the details of God’s word, the education in the ways of wisdom were the work of Jewish men carried out in synagogues, town squares and in their homes. Women did not play a part in these discussions. All the students in synagogue schools were boys, no girls.
The compiler of Proverbs chose to end his work with two sections focused on the wisdom of women. 31:1-9 are words of advice from a mother to her son who was a king. 31:10-31, which make up our first reading this Sunday at Mass, tell of the ideal wife and mother whose life, not just her words, shows how to live wisely. Girls learned from their mothers and grandmothers. The influence of a wife on her husband, even in a male-dominated culture, should not be underestimated… much less the influence of a mother on both daughters and sons. Ending his work with these reflections on the wisdom of women reflects on the wisdom of the compiler who, in doing so, reminds the reader to learn wisdom, not just in the male-dominated debates in synagogues and classes at school, but from the living examples of wives, moms and grandmas right there at home.
(thanks to Fr Denny Dempsey for his insights into our first reading this Sunday)