Sunday, August 28, 2022 – Catholic Church in France

FIRST READING – book of Ben Sira the Wise 3.17-18.20.28-29

17 My son, do all things in humility,
and you will be loved more than a benefactor.
18 The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself:
you will find favor with the Lord.

20 Great is the power of the Lord,
and the humble give him glory.

28 The condition of the proud is beyond remedy,
for the root of evil is in him.
29 Whoever is sensible meditates on the maxims of wisdom;
the ideal of the sage is a listening ear.

This text becomes clear if we begin reading it at the end: “He who is sensible meditates on the maxims of wisdom; the ideal of the sage is a listening ear. When we say “wisdom” in the Bible, we mean the art of happy living. To be a “wise man, a wise man” is the ideal of every man in Israel and of the entire people: this tiny people, born later than many of its illustrious neighbors (if we consider that he truly deserves the name of people at the time of the Exodus from Egypt) has this privilege (thanks to the Revelation from which he benefited) of knowing that “All wisdom comes from the Lord” (Si 1,1): in the sense that God alone knows the mysteries of life and the secret of happiness. It is therefore to the Lord that we must ask for wisdom: in his sovereign freedom, he chose Israel to be the depositary of his secrets, of his wisdom. To put it figuratively, Jesus Ben Sirac, the author of our reading this Sunday, makes wisdom itself speak as if it were a person: “The Creator of all things has given me an order, the one who created me and made my home. He said to me: “Come and dwell among the sons of Jacob, receive your share of the inheritance in Israel, take root in the chosen people. (Si 24.8). Israel is that people who seek wisdom every day: “In front of the Temple, I prayed to receive it and until the end I will seek it. (Si 51.14). If we are to believe Psalm 1, he finds his happiness there: “Blessed is the man who delights in the law of the LORD and murmurs his law day and night. (Ps 1,2).
He recites “day and night”, that means he is permanently tense; “Who seeks finds” another Jesus would say later: we still have to seek, that is to say recognize that we do not have everything, that we lack something. Ben Sirac knows this well: he opened in Jerusalem, around 180 BC, what we would today call a school of theology (a beth midrash). To advertise it, it said: “Come near to me, you who have no education, take your place in my school. (Si 51.23). Of course, only people enrolled who were eager to learn.
If one thinks one knows everything, one does not consider it useful to learn through courses, conferences, books. On the contrary, a true son of Israel opens his ears wide; knowing that all wisdom comes from God, he allows himself to be instructed by God: “He who is sensible meditates on the maxims of wisdom; the ideal of the sage is a listening ear. The people of Israel have learned the lesson so well that they recite several times a day “Shema Israel, hear Israel” (Dt 6,4).
We can see what humility is needed! In the sense of having an open ear to listen to advice, instructions, commands. Conversely, the proud, who thinks he understands everything by himself, closes his ears. He forgot that if the house has the shutters closed, the sun will not be able to enter! It’s just common sense.
The parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Lk 18) takes on particular resonance here. Was it so admirable what the publican did? He was content to be true. In the word “humility”, there is “humus”: the humble have their feet on the ground; he recognizes himself as fundamentally small, poor by himself; he knows that everything he has, everything he is comes from God. And so he relies on God, and on him alone. He is ready to accept God’s gifts and forgiveness… and he is fulfilled. The Pharisee who needed nothing, who was self-sufficient, left as he had come; the publican has returned home transformed.
“All wisdom comes from the Lord, and remains with him forever,” says Ben Sirac, and further on, making Israel speak: “It was enough for me to listen a little to receive it, and I found great lessons. (Si 51.16). Isaiah speaks of the joy of these humble ones whom God fills: “The humble will rejoice more and more in the LORD, the afflicted will exult in God, the Holy One of Israel. (Is 29,19). Which brings us a luminous word from Jesus, what is called his “jubilation”: “Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I proclaim your praise: what you have hidden from the wise and learned, you revealed to toddlers. (Mt 11.25 // Lk 10.21).
With these, the humble, God can do great things: he makes them servants of his project; for every vocation is a mission entrusted to the service of others. It is thus, for example, that Isaiah describes the experience of the Servant of God: “The LORD my God has given me the language of the disciples, that I may, a word, support the exhausted. Every morning, he awakens, he awakens my ear so that, as a disciple, I listen. The LORD my God has opened my ear, and I did not rebel, I did not turn back. (Is 50,4-5). We then understand where Moses, who was such a great and indefatigable servant of God’s project, drew his resources; the book of Numbers tells us his secret: “Moses was very humble, the humblest man the earth has ever borne. (Num 12,3). Jesus himself, the Servant of God par excellence, confides: “I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11,29). And when Saint Paul, in turn, describes his spiritual experience, he can say: “If it is necessary to boast, I will boast of what makes my weakness… The Lord has declared to me: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power gives its full measure in weakness. (2 Corinthians 11.30; 12.9).

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Sunday, August 28, 2022 – Catholic Church in France

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