Reading Sirach On Our Lenten Journey
I have not read the Bible in its entirety; not even close. I began a number of times with good intentions but usually quit when Cain killed Abel. I could see things were heading downhill (and I prefer happy endings). Truth is, I am easily sidetracked from many a good intention. At this point, it’s doubtful that feat will ever be accomplished. A few determined people that I know have studied the entire tome (my family doctor did it twice!). However, for the time being, I have discovered a beneficial alternative: reading the daily Scriptures instead.
Using my favorite monthly publication Give Us This Day, I have been reacquainted with many familiar passages and also introduced to some obscure readings and Bible books. Encountering these readings and reflections sometimes prompts me to delve deeper into a select chapter or author.
Attending weekly student Masses during my teaching tenure acquainted me with the book of Sirach. I was instantly impressed by the wisdom of his words. Of all the books I have perused in the Old Testament, it is one of my favorites. Interestingly, I recently learned that the Protestant Bible dropped it! I can’t imagine why, and I am sorry for their loss.
The book of Sirach is a sage guide on how to raise our children, respect our parents, choose our friends, conduct ourselves, deal with others and generally live our lives. Ben Sira’s messages are as relevant today as they were when they were transcribed in the second century B.C.
For that reason, “The Wisdom of Ben Sira” (also known as Ecclesiasticus) is a fitting companion for our Lenten journey. Ben Sira speaks to us on many levels: as children, parents, spouses, and friends. Through “well-crafted maxims,” the author comments on how to manage our joys, our sorrows, our blessings and our afflictions. He also identifies character flaws that hinder us from a complete union with God. He especially exhorts us about the harmfulness of stubbornness, its relationship to pride, and pride’s deadly outcome.
He warns in Sirach 3:26 - 27: “A stubborn heart will fare badly in the end; A stubborn heart will have many a hurt….”
In Sirach 10:12 -13, he states: “The beginning of pride is stubbornness in withdrawing the heart from one’s Maker. For sin is a reservoir of insolence, a source which runs over with vice; Because of it God sends unheard-of afflictions and strikes people with utter ruin.”
That passage is a clear and strong admonishment. If we truly desire a deeper union with God during this Lenten season, then it is adamant that we rid ourselves of pride and soften our hearts. That is only possible if we break down our polemical walls and wholeheartedly open the ears of our heart to God’s word.
Many times when people explain why they left the Catholic Church, they share stories of anger, hurt or frustration concerning a pastor, or the unconscionable behavior of select clergy, or the lack of response by our Church leaders. They may also disagree with the Church’s teachings on divorce, annulment or even abortion. At times that anger is justified, but the response should not be abandoning the Church or, worse yet, God.
The Church is made up of sinful people, and sinful people make wrong judgments and act in hurtful and harmful ways. They should be held accountable. However, these acts are not from God. The devil alone is responsible for the evil in the world. He recognizes our vulnerabilities and often attacks when we are discouraged, distraught, or in despair.
As the St. Michael, the Archangel, prayer says, “Satan and all the evil spirits … prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.” Using temporary solutions and distractions of the secular world, he stealthily lures us from the Truth, our only authentic possibility for lasting peace and fulfillment both now and in eternity.
Because Sirach understands our fragility during afflictions, he advises us, “Be sincere of heart and steadfast, and do not be impetuous in time of adversity. Cling to [God] and do not leave him … Accept whatever happens to you ... For in fire gold is tested … Trust in God, and he will help you.”
Check out the book. Have a blessed Lent!
Kristine and her husband Jim Schroeder are members of St. Boniface Parish. They have 4 grown children and 20 grandchildren.