Written by Sr. Rosemary O.P.
If you were a Jew or a gentile, lived in the days of the early church, and decided you wanted to be a follower, you would become part of the original RCIA process. You would be instructed using the book of Sirach, which we’re reading this week, and which was used extensively to teach the early catechumens and the faithful about God’s ways.
Sirach was written around 200 B.C, an era when the Jewish people were being strongly influenced by popular Greek culture. It’s believed that the author of this book was an experienced sage who had plenty to share with the youth of his day. Rather than confront all the social and political challenges of those times, the author focuses on the timeless value of wisdom. He could see that the youth were being drawn to the new Greek ways, its philosophies and lifestyle. The author, called Ben Sira, was concerned with guiding the youth on how to live an honorable life, and how to be happy domestically and professionally. His whole message is that happiness can only be achieved if one maintains their covenant with the God of Israel.
If we listen closely this week, we’ll hear Ben Sira’s many admonitions against the dangers of slander, gossip, insincere friends. In other verses, he even writes about how to behave at a dinner party, how to manage your money and urges them to be honorable in business. Throughout the book, he promotes Jewish piety. He instructs them to surrender absolute control to God and speaks his message through proverbs, prayers, hymns and questions. All in all, he combines secular wisdom with biblical wisdom.
Although written a long time ago, the wisdom of Sirach still speaks to us, especially these days. With the turmoil and division we experience among us, don’t we all need a bit of wisdom and guidance to maintain our focus? Please listen again and reflect on these wise words:
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.