Turning Tragedy into Glory
The homily today addresses the two most difficult challenges outlined by Saint Thomas Aquinas concerning God. One is the problem of evil. The other is those who believe humans will come to know everything there is to know. A brief look at the world today indicates the second is still a long ways off. But that same look at the world indicates we need to account for evil in the world.
Going Behind the Word
In Going Behind the Word we explore just who Sirach was. A book written largely in the style of the Book of Proverbs, it too provides timeless wisdom for the ages. By providing a little background to the book, perhaps you will appreciate more his wisdom.
“Wise instruction, appropriate proverbs, I have written in this book— I, Yeshua Ben Eleazar Ben Sira—as they poured forth from my heart’s understanding.” With this verse at the end of his writings, the author is identified. As the US bishops website tells us, “The Wisdom of Ben Sira derives its title from the author, “Yeshua [Jesus], son of Eleazar, son of Sira.”
One thing we do realize pretty early on is that Ben Sirach is clearly part of the wisdom literature. This literature is a way of capturing the wisdom of God. As such, the book is largely a collection of sayings that provide truths to live by. It is thought that these sayings were often used to teach people the way of life of the Jewish people.
Scholars suggest this book was written about two centuries before Jesus was on the earth, and the work was probably translated from Hebrew to Greek by the grandson of Ben Sirach. The teaching contained in the book are grouped largely by category so as to make their application easier to follow.
This book is one of the “Deutero-canonicals”, that is “Second Canon”. While not found in Protestant bibles, this book is considered canonical by the Catholic Church, and indeed before the reformation was considered canonical.
This book not only outlines the maxims for living a moral life, but at the end contains tributes to the heroes of the Jewish faith. It serves as a reminder that moral maxims are most powerful when they are lived out in the lives of human beings.
The book contains a desire that the wisdom discovered by Ben-Sirach would in fact be received by all. If this is the wisdom of a Jewish life well-lived, it is easy to see how it is that this could be lived by all people.
In a world where we can get the sense that things in the past are no longer helpful, this book reminds us that when it comes to the wisdom of God, it is always appropriate. Also, in the age of “fake news” it is more important than ever to trust in this wisdom of God, lest we be led astray.
The Catholic News Agency provides a good summary of the material. “Sirach addresses many issues related to human life including money, relationships, worship, business and even table manners! Its focus is to help the reader know how to live within the covenant, how to be faithful to God even in the small things. Ben Sira has much to say about choosing friends, dealing with practical problems of life and watching one’s words carefully.”