Sage Advice

The first reading is from the Book of Sirach (also known as the Wisdom of Ben Sira or as Ecclesiasticus – not to be confused with Ecclesiastes). The book is part of the Bible the Catholic Church refers to as Deutero-Canonical, meaning “second canon,” while some parts of Reformed or Protestant Christianity refer to it as part of the apocrypha (from the Late Latin apocryphus “secret, of doubtful authenticity, uncanonical”). In other words, not accepted as part of Sacred Scripture. Why? That is a topic for another time. What is clear is that the book was widely used in early Christian communities and churches in presenting moral teaching to catechumens and to the faithful. This is likely the reason for the name “Liber Ecclesiasticus” meaning “church book.”

Written in Hebrew in the early years of the second century B.C., the book was finished by ca. 175. (The text was translated into Greek by the author’s grandson after 117 B.C.). The book was written in a period of Israel’s history in which Hellenistic culture had made a great impact upon the common life. The ideals and philosophy of things Hellenistic were replacing the religious faith and the integrity of their shared values and customs. This concern to remind and restore their sense of identity as the people chosen by God is evident in the content of the book. The book contains numerous well-crafted maxims, grouped by affinity, and dealing with a variety of subjects such as the individual, the family, and the community in their relations with one another and with God. It treats topics such as friendship, education, poverty and wealth, laws, religious worship, and many other matters that reflect the religious and social customs of the time. The author makes clear the source of this wisdom: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever” (Sir 1:1).

The author makes clear that living out the wisdom from God, passed through the prophets, patriarchs and Law will not be easy. To live a holy life in a secular world comes at a cost – “My son, when you come to serve the LORD, stand in justice and fear, prepare yourself for trials” (Sir 2:1)

Did you notice some of the key words of wisdom and advice? Patience, acceptance, steadfastness, trust, mercy, joy, compassion and forgiveness. Good advice for the time in which we live. While some say that our Christian values and cultures are under attack – perhaps – I think they are being dismissed and ignored which is perhaps worse. You attack what threatens your world view. You ignore what doesn’t matter.

As our recent gospel noted: “You are the salt of the earth…. You are the light of the world.

The author of Sirach recognized that the people of his time stood with one foot in the “camp of the Lord” and the other outside in the world. Like them, we too have to navigate this world. Drawing energy from the salt of Wisdom in order to be the light of the world. Why? Because it matters.

Image credit: Ylanite Koppens; Maroon Flower on Top of Brown Book, CC, pexels-photo-2014695

Sirach 2:1-11

My son, when you come to serve the LORD, stand in justice and fear, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, incline your ear and receive the word of understanding, undisturbed in time of adversity.

Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not; thus will you be wise in all your ways.

Accept whatever befalls you, when sorrowful, be steadfast, and in crushing misfortune be patient; For in fire gold and silver are tested, and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation.

Trust God and God will help you; trust in him, and he will direct your way; keep his fear and grow old therein.

You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy, turn not away lest you fall.

You who fear the LORD, trust him, and your reward will not be lost.

You who fear the LORD, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy.

You who fear the LORD, love him, and your hearts will be enlightened.

Study the generations long past and understand; has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed? Has anyone persevered in his commandments and been forsaken?  Has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed?

Compassionate and merciful is the LORD; he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble and he is a protector to all who seek him in truth.

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