Readings for October 28, 2007, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time:
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2007
In the past few weeks, our Sunday Scripture readings have given us lessons on faith, gratitude and perseverance. Three Sundays ago, Jesus taught us that we could uproot and transplant trees if we had faith the size of a mustard seed. Two Sundays ago, we saw the gratitude of two foreigners and the indifference of those who should have been faithful. Last Sunday, we saw the necessity of praying always and with perseverance. Today we reflect on humility and simplicity. Fr. Todd reminded us on Thursday that humility is the foundation to prayer, and so it is, as the Lord condemns an attitude of smugness and self-satisfaction.
Sirach is one of seven Old Testament books not found in the Jewish and Protestant Bibles. These are called "deuterocanonical," which means that at some time in the course of Church history, some people disputed their inspiration. Some congregations call these books "apocryphal," meaning "secret," but by and by meaning "false." Even St. Jerome questioned their inspiration, however he was wrong: as the council Trent decreed they be inclusion in the Bible. I'm noting that some Protestant Bibles are including these book, but at the end of the Old Testament as works of ancient literature.
This is especially important as Sirach is filled with practical wisdom. In the section which immediately precedes today's selection, Sirach discusses the evils of the tongue, The New Testament letter of James repeats much of this material, Sirach then discusses lending to neighbors; Jesus will urge his followers to lend without expecting repayment.
Sirach discusses the need for simplicity of life; Jesus praises the same virtue. In Chapter 30, Sirach discusses the problems of riches; Jesus has many parables on this subject (such as the Rich Man and Lazarus, the man Who Built Bigger Barns, and so on). Sirach discusses table etiquette; Jesus tells his followers to take the last place at table.
Chapter 33 teaches control of one's life, allowing no one to interfere with our doing what is right; Jesus says that we cannot follow him without turning our back even on our own family. Chapters 34 and 35 teach true faith and true worship: A person must trust the Lord alone and not be given to dreams or fantasies. By the way, there is 51 chapters in Sirach.
Obedience and humility are better than a holocaust; the letter to the Hebrews will echo these word in its statements about the humility and obedience of Jesus. In short, the New Testament is, in many ways, a commentary on the teachings found in Sirach.
Today's reading discusses humility and proclaims that the Lord is the God of Justice. He does not play favorites. He is not unduly partial toward the weak, but he hears the cry of the widow and the orphan.
This is very similar to the language of the prophets. The prophets were champions of the poor - the "hewers of wood and the drawers of water" - the destitute who had no one to rely on but God. The theme of social justice has also been revived in our own time. Recent Popes tell us that a society must be judged on how well it treats the weakest and most vulnerable of its citizens. The Popes speak of the "preferential option for the poor."1
That reminds me of a story of St. Lawrence, a Deacon of Rome; This takes place in the early years of the church. Lawrence had charge of the purse of the Church. He was apprehended by the Prefect of Rome and demanded of Lawrence the treasure of the Church. Lawrence not able to hand it over at the moment ask for a little time to gather this treasure of the Church. When the day came to present himself before the Perfect and once again being demanded of him to hand over the treasure of the Church, Lawrence turns with the wave of his hand and presents the poor and the lame, the downtrodden of Rome and says, here is the Treasure of the Church. They roasted him for that. At one point it is said that he told his executioners, 'I'm done on this side, you can roll me over.' Ever since I was a little boy I would remember St. Lawrence every time I got a burn and it was often, and still happens from time to time. Remembering the last time when I reached for a tool on the work bench and came in contact with a hot soldering iron.
The first reading proclaims that the Lord hears the cry of the weak - - - the widow - - - the orphan - - - the lowly. The Responsorial Psalm echoes this as well. But the poor are not heard for their social condition. They are head because they are symbols of humility. The are powerless, and so they most rely on the all powerful God. He hears them because of their sincerity and their trust.
Finally, a recommendation: when you get home open your bible to the book of Sirach and let it lay on the table or side board so you can read at least parts of it during the week. I suggest you open to the 18th chapter, as I did on Friday, and find there titled, The Divine Power and Mercy, along with, The Necessity of Prudence and a few words about Self-control, all part of the 18th Chapter. After reading this whole book you will understand why the Council of Trent had to include this book in the Canon of the Bible.
1The Catholic Church's "preferential option for the poor" isn't liberation theology. At least, not in the contemporary secular sense of the term:
- "Instruction of Certain Aspects of the 'Theology of Liberation' "
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (August 6, 1984)
- "The Catholic Church: Authoritarian, Which Isn't Necessarily a Bad Thing"
(October 2, 2008)
- "Caritas in Veritate"
Benedict XVI (June 29, 2009)
- "Centesimus annus"
Ioannes Paulus PP. II (May 1, 1991)
- "Sollicitudo rei socialis"
Ioannes Paulus PP. II (December 30, 1987)