The word of the day is “seek.” Today in our reading of Proverbs 8:1-21, wisdom assures us that “those who seek me diligently will find me” (vs. 21). As we continue our Lenten time of prayer and fasting, we might reflect on this matter of seeking. To do so, let’s jump forward to the Gospel of John and the story of the first followers of Jesus, a passage that gives us clarity about seeking and finding.
The Lord Asks, “What Do You Seek?”
Recall that in John Chapter 1, John the Baptist gave his prophetic witness, “I have seen and testified that this (Jesus) is the Son of God” (John 1:44), and again he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” (John 1:36). That witness was enough to prompt two of his disciples to follow Jesus. When Jesus noticed they are following him, He asked, “What do you seek?” (John 1:38).
That is the crucial question underlying our Lenten journey. The Greek word for “seek” encompasses the ideas of searching, inquiring, striving after, and finding out (Strong’s #2212). This idea of seeking, therefore, raises the question of what we hope to find in this time of spiritual discipline?
Proverbs Advises the Search for Wisdom
Our reading teaches that we should search for wisdom above everything. Nothing we desire, the sage says, is better than wisdom for it gives riches, honor, and righteousness (vs. 17), and its “fruit is better than gold” (vs. 19).
However, finding wisdom is just one of several goals we might choose for Lent. For example, some seek forgiveness, some virtue, some deeper spiritual knowledge, some healing of soul and body, some peace with God, some the overcoming of their passions, and some the turning from material to spiritual things.
But what did the first followers of Jesus say that they were seeking? In the Gospel of John, they answered Jesus, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” according to the New King James Version (OSB John 1:38). On the surface level, the Greek term for “staying” means “to remain” or “to reside.” However, the Greek word has more depth as it means to “abide” (Strong’s #3306).
What the First Disciples Sought
In view of this sense of the word, St. John Chrysostom notes that the two inquirers did not ask for knowledge that can be put into words. He stated “They did not say, ‘Teach us of Thy doctrines, or some other thing that we need to know; but what? Where dwellest Thou?’” (Chrysostom, Homilies on John). According to Chrysostom, Jesus did not speak of the place where he resides or His situation. He accepted those who questioned Him as friends and invited them to get to know Him and to develop a relationship with Him (Chrysostom, Homilies on John).
In the same vein, Jesus invites all believers to “abide” in Him, saying, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (OSB John 15:4).
What We Seek in Lent is Found in Christ
In the context of our Lenten disciplines, we might say that the various things that we seek in this season are the fruit of our “abiding” in Christ. In Him, we find forgiveness, virtue, spiritual knowledge, healing of soul and body, overcoming of the passions, peace with God, and focus on spiritual things. Apart from Him, we cannot achieve these things no matter how hard we strive.
Of all of the answers to the question of “What do you seek?” our reading recommends the search for wisdom. Today’s study suggests where we can find wisdom. The book of Proverbs points to the answer when it personifies wisdom. That answer is that wisdom is to be found in the person of Jesus Christ. Paul makes this personification complete and specific when he associates wisdom with Jesus Christ. He states, “But of Him, you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption (OSB 1 Cor. 1:30). Thus, the incarnate Son of God is the fulfillment of the Book of Proverbs. He embodies the wisdom from above to which Provers points.
We can apply this insight to the other things that we might seek in Lent. As Christ is our wisdom, in Him, we can also find our forgiveness, virtue, spiritual knowledge, healing of soul and body, overcoming of the passions, peace with God, and focus on spiritual things. Therefore, Christ is the proper answer to what we should seek in this time of repentance.