Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr
June 1, 2023
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with one of our last few readings from the Book of Sirach. On Saturday, we will finish this book and, on Monday, move on to the Book of Tobit.
Both Sirach and Tobit are considered deuterocanonical (or “second list”) books of the Bible. That’s a really big word that makes you sound smart but its meaning is simple. The term refers to a group of writings composed sometime in the 300 years before the birth of Christ. The Catholic Church considers them part of the Old Testament. Most Protestant denominations do not.
Therefore, my readers who are not Catholic may be unfamiliar with these books. The Protestant Bible is composed of the protocanonical (or “first list”) of books, the earlier texts which comprised the Hebrew scriptures. Catholic translations of the Bible include both proto and deutero books.
So who cares, you might be saying. Well, I think it’s helpful to realize that the formulation of what comprises the Bible was a fluid process. Jews, Catholics and Protestants mean different things when they say “my Bible”. We share many of the same readings, but may never have heard some others. Sirach and Tobit are good examples of those sometimes missed readings.
And what a shame it would be to miss the wise and lyrical Sirach who was a real poet writing around 200 years before Jesus was born. His work was preserved, popular and shared. Many references in the New Testament indicate that Jesus and the disciples were familiar with Sirach’s work. That’s cool, don’t you think? I like to think of Jesus listening to sacred stories or reading books like Sirach before he went to bed at night.
And maybe Jesus, as we might this morning, walked along the beach or sat by a dawn-lit window praying with these beautiful words:
Now will I recall God’s works;Sirach 2:15-17
what I have seen, I will describe.
At God’s word were his works brought into being;
they do his will as he has ordained for them.
As the rising sun is clear to all,
so the glory of the LORD fills all his works;
Yet even God’s holy ones must fail
in recounting the wonders of the LORD,
Though God has given these, his hosts, the strength
to stand firm before his glory.
Our Gospel may lead us to pray with Bartimeus, begging for the kind of sight Sirach describes – an inner sight that comes from allowing God to plumb our hearts:
He plumbs the depths and penetrates the heart;Sirach 42:18-19
their innermost being he understands.
The Most High possesses all knowledge,
and sees from of old the things that are to come:
He makes known the past and the future,
and reveals the deepest secrets.
Poetry: how about if we just enjoy more of Sirach’s elegant poetry
How beautiful are all God's works! even to the spark and fleeting vision! The universe lives and abides forever; to meet each need, each creature is preserved. All of them differ, one from another, yet none of them has God made in vain, For each in turn, as it comes, is good; can one ever see enough of their splendor?
Music: Across the Universe – John Lennon and the Beatles
This song reminds me that God’s Universe is everlasting. Nothing will change God’s Presence to us. The phrase “Jai Guru Deva” is a Sanskrit phrase which can be translated “Glory to the Shining Remover of Darkness”, reminding us of Bartimeus’s experience of being healed from his blindness.