The Wisdom of Sirach, Chapter 1

Thanks  for joining me today as we begin to explore the Book of Sirach, or the Wisdom of Sirach as it was once called.  The book begins with “Praise of Wisdom.”  Sirach tells us that “all wisdom comes from the Lord and with Him it remains forever.”

Wisdom was the first creation.  “To whom has wisdom’s root been revealed?”  The answer is pretty obvious..  “There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring, seated upon His throne;  It is the Lord; He created her, has seen her, and has taken note of her.”

Moving on to verse 12, we read that “the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord, which is formed with the faithful in the womb.”  That certainly puts a different spin on the abortion debate, doesn’t it?  Wisdom is formed in the womb.

I’m going to stop there and suggest that you read the rest of Chapter 1 on your own.  Either find your Bible, or here’s a link to the USCCB page.  Either way, I think you’ll find plenty to think about without my commentary.  In fact, as we dig further into this amazing book, some days you won’t find any commentary at all, just Sirach’s words.

Please feel free to add your own comments below.

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28th Sunday of Ordinary Time–God’s Plan

Today Jesus tells the disciples that it’s harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle—a shocking statement, especially if you happen to be rich like the young man in the story.

I think we would all agree that it’s impossible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Is Jesus saying that it’s impossible for a rich man to get to heaven? No, I don’t think so. I think what He’s saying is that it’s impossible for a rich man, or a poor man for that matter, to get into heaven on his own. Jesus tells the rich man to sell all his possessions and to FOLLOW JESUS. That’s the answer.

In the first reading, the writer says, “I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.”

I was on retreat this week. One day I was in my room working on a project and was really getting nowhere. I decided to shift gears, take a break and do something else for a while. I took a look at today’s readings. Hmmm. “I prayed and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.”

So I prayed. I asked God for wisdom then I picked up my pen and finished what I had been working on. It seemed to flow from nowhere. What had been impossible for me was easy for God. And I know this! It’s happens to me all the time. But I usually let my ego get into the way of asking God for help. I think I can do things on my own.

If you and I want to get into heaven, to pass through that needle’s eye, then we have to spend time in quiet prayer. God will tell us what to do if we just listen. He’s told us so over and over in the Scriptures, and I imagine all of you have experienced this in your lives.

We sometimes hear God referred to as a “Higher Power”. I think we can all agree with that, but do we act like we believe it? A friend of mine described it like this. “Higher Power” means that God is up here (hold one hand higher than the other) and we’re down here. But is that how we treat Him? Maybe we treat Him more like an assistant. We make our plan then we ask God to make it happen. (Reverse the hands.) We treat Him like He’s our equal or even our inferior. This is what I want to do. God, make it happen!

Isn’t it better to ask Him to show us His plan and to give us the grace to make it happen? Maybe His plan is better. In fact, there’s no question His plan is better. His plan is ALWAYS better. But we like to think we know more than He does.

Didn’t Jesus tell us to pray to our Father, “THY WILL BE DONE”? We say it all the time then proceed to try to do it our way. Face it. Whether we like it or not, God’s will is the only will that matters.

Last week Father Paul delivered an excellent homily, one of the best I’ve ever heard. He challenged us to avoid talking about one another behind the other person’s back. I sat over there thinking, “Way to go, Father!” “Right on!” “You tell ‘em!”

Then, before I had even left the chapel I caught myself gossiping. It wasn’t twenty minutes later! It’s very simple. I’m a flawed human being. So are you. We’re never going to make ourselves better. We need God’s help. The remarkable thing is that He will give it to us, IF WE ASK. He will make us better.

We have to do an honest evaluation of our faults. Then we have to lay those personality defects before God and ask Him to help us. I am who I am. You are who you are. God made us this way, so He can’t be too disappointed in how we turned out. We can never be afraid to go to Him and say, “Lord, help me to be the best me that I can be.”

 

The rich young man told Jesus that he followed the Ten Commandments. I think most of us do too. But that’s not enough. We need to do more and the power to do more comes from prayer.

Here at Saint John’s we’re surrounded by images of great saints. They’re here to inspire us; to give us something to emulate. But we’re not them! We shouldn’t try to be them. God made each of these saints one time. There’s no need for another. He made each of us for a reason and His wish for us is that we be the best version of ourselves we can possibly be.

That’s what we should pray for. If we humbly ask God to make us the best version of ourselves we can possibly be, then if we shut up and listen to what He tells us, then we have a chance to pass through that eye of the needle.

“I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.”

The “Serenity Prayer”

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

We’re all familiar with this prayer.  It’s usually associated with Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve step groups.  It’s known as “the serenity prayer.”  But notice that when we say this prayer we’re asking for three things:  serenity, courage, and wisdom.  It could be just as well be called “the courage prayer” or “the wisdom prayer”.

But we call it “the serenity prayer” because that’s what we’re all seeking.  Sure, it’s great to be brave and wise, but isn’t serenity what we’re all really seeking?  And to be serene, we also need courage and wisdom.  Serenity isn’t easily achieved.

When we say the Lord’s Prayer at mass the priest follows it with these words,

“Deliver us, Lord, we pray from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may always be free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Again, we’re asking for peace and to be free from all distress; in other words, serenity.

We live in a stressful world.  We can never be free from all things stressful.  But, with God’s help, we can learn to handle stress and to create our own brand of peace in our lives.  With can’t control what happens around us, but with God’s help, we can choose to be at peace.

The Serenity Prayer isn’t just for alcoholics, or addicts, or any other particular group.  It’s something we should all include in our daily prayer lives.  When we’re faced with stressful situations, why not take a few seconds to repeat this awesome prayer silently, or even out loud when the situation warrants it.

Say it with me,

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Amen!

5 Timeless Truths from the Serenity Prayer that Offer Wisdom in the Modern Age

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Serenity Prayer

Most of us are familiar with the “Serenity Prayer”.  It’s most famous use is as the prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change,

the courage to change the things I can change,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

I include this prayer every day in my Divine Office.  For some reason it occurred to me this morning just how difficult it is to live this out.  I spend a fair amount of my time trying to change things that just can’t be changed.  I often lack the wisdom to know the difference between what I can change and what I can’t.  This lack of wisdom makes it hard to achieve the serenity that we all desire.  What I see as courage is actually a lack of wisdom on my part.

Persistance is a positive trait but persisting in pursuing the impossible is something else altogether.  It leads to frustration, anger, and a feeling of failure.

They say you should be careful what you pray for.  In my case, I have to seek wisdom first, then the courage to change the things I can change.