• Father David M. Knight

February 25, 2017

Saturday, Week Seven, Year I

Link to the Readings: Sirach 17:1-15; Psalm 103 Mark 10:13-16.

The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.

Sirach 17:1-15 takes us “back to basics.” But the basic truths of life are often the ones we never look at deeply. And seldom think about. Our loss.

“The Lord created humans out of earth, and in his own image he made them.” We don’t just exist. If we can see the hand in front of our face, we know it has no reason to be there, nothing within itself to explain its existence. Nor does anything else in the universe. Sirach says we are “created.” There is a self-explanatory Being whose existence is such that it needs no explanation. A Being who obviously, unimaginably just “is.” By nature. And this is the name God gave himself: God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”[1]

We only exist because “HE WHO IS” gave and is giving us existence. Right now. He is saying, “Beeeee….” and holding the note. That makes our existence intelligible. We can look at the hand in front of our face and see it for what it is. This is no small thing.

"In his own image.” We know we are like God because we can recognize intention in the structure of things, know why different parts are there and how they are related to each other. We can follow the Creator’s thought process and admire it. Praise him for it. Animals and atheists can’t do this. Animals see that things work but not why. Engineers can explain why things work, but must stop there. Their inquiry does not extend to what things are. Metaphysics (the “philosophy of being”) explains the why of the why, the reason behind the structure, the Person whose intention we can understand and approve. Knowing this allows us to see beings for what they are. And it makes relationship possible with their Creator. In this we discover ourselves.

God helps us do this, both through our natural power of intellect — “he endowed humans with a strength of their own” — and through revelation: “With wisdom and knowledge he fills them… and shows them his glorious works, that they may describe the wonders of his deeds and praise his holy name.” We do this in the Gloria at Mass: “Lord God… we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.”

The key is “fear of the Lord.” This is not fright. Fear minus fright is perspective. We see what God is compared to us and we respect him. For Ben Sira, to keep this perspective in mind is the “beginning” and the “fullness” of wisdom” (1:1-20). Without it our understanding is reduced to groping and our will deprived of direction. There is no ultimate intelligibility, beginning, end or order in the universe or in our lives.

Sirach says that, in practice, to really appreciate the principle, we have to live by what follows from it. “If you desire wisdom, keep the commandments and the Lord will lavish her upon you, for the fear of the Lord is wisdom and discipline” (1:26-27). A disordered life — sin — blocks truth. Obedience to God frees the mind from enslavement to blind appetites and the culture.

God can guide those who have a sense of perspective: “Good and evil he shows them… he has set before them a law of life as their inheritance.” We echo that: “The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.”

Meditation: How has “fear of the Lord” freed me to see and appreciate truth?

[1] Exodus 3:14.

  • Father David M. Knight

February 24, 2017

Friday, Week Seven, Year I

Link to readings: Sirach 6:5-17; Psalm 119; Mark 10:1-12.

When we see how things go on this earth and the paths that people follow, what overwhelms us is the seductive power of culture.

Children grow up in Christian homes. Their parents have the faith and form them in it. But once out of the house, the youth stop going to Mass. The last thing on earth youth want to hear is that they are “conformists.” But in fact, their behavior is predictable. They will conform to the attitudes, values and behavior of their peer group. First in college; later in business and politics.

They were taught that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. But in fact, they follow the way of the world, accept the truth as filtered through their society, and their life is like everyone else’s.

Like everyone’s in their peer group, that is; they think they are free and different, but they are only free from the truth the Church teaches and different from the peer group of their parents. They swallow uncritically the assumptions of their chosen environments and blend into the scenery. They don’t stand out.

Sirach 6:5-17 is realism. If we think we are free spirits we are naïve. It is true we form ourselves as persons by our choices; that is what makes each of us unique. But it is also true, although not admitted, that our choices are all influenced, and most of them pre-determined, by the communal choices of our culture. So Sirach says, “Choose your friends.” When we choose our friends, we are in fact choosing our way of life, whether or not we are aware of it. Do you find this hard to accept?

Language: what words do you find acceptable and why? Dress: who chose the image you are projecting? Food and drink: how original are your habits? Spending: what are your thought-out priorities? Family life: How is yours visibly different from others; what sets the daily schedule? Housing: what is the “right” kind of neighborhood? Work: what determined your choice of career? Work-ethic: whose rhythm are you dancing to? Reading: who are your favorite authors? Conversation: what do you talk about? Avoid talking about? Morality: What is acceptable: in your work, social life, political choices? Does your behavior raise eyebrows among your peers? Make them uncomfortable?

“When you gain friends, first test them. And be not too ready to trust them.” What determines their values? What truths are the foundation for their attitudes? Where are they leading you?

“There are friends, boon companions, who will not be with you when sorrow comes.” When you become an alcoholic. Pregnant. Deprived of a God you know how to deal with. Without a faith to pass on to your children. When you realize your life is meaningless; empty. When your soul desires to soar. Who will you talk to?

“Faithful friends are a life-saving remedy; those who fear the Lord will find them.” If you stay in bounds you will make friends with those you meet there. And vice-versa.

“Those who fear the Lord behave accordingly. And their friends will be like them.” Like attracts like. If your standards are clear, you will bond with people who support them. This leads to “communion in the Holy Spirit.”

“Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.” He will, if we choose friends who will walk with us.

Meditation: Is my lifestyle different from that of my friends? Why is that?

  • Father David M. Knight

February 23, 2017

Thursday, Week Seven, Year I

Link to Readings: Sirach 5:1-10; Psalm 1; Mark 9:41-50

Discipleship is all about conversion. God has no reason to give us more light if we don’t intend to walk by it. In John’s Gospel Jesus is identified as Light and Life interchangeably: “In him was life, and the life was the light of all people…. to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power….” Pow

er to live and act: “to become children of God.” [1] In fact, when one meditates on Scripture, what opens the door to its meaning is a practical focus.

The three “R’s” of Scriptural meditation are “Read, Reflect, Respond.” But sometimes our reading and reflection seem barren: we don’t get any great thoughts. No problem. Just ask, “How can I respond, what can I do that will express belief in what I have just read?” Look for a concrete action, no matter how trivial it seems. And do it. Then you will have meditated successfully on Scripture.

And you will probably have found the key to the real meaning of the passage.

What blocks meaning is self-reliance. Oddly, meditation requires us to make decisions with confidence, but depends on recognized powerlessness. When God calls us to something, if we think we can do it, we haven’t understood the full dimensions of the “it.” God calls us to do what God alone can do. By grace. We need to look for the divine dimension even in ordinary decisions.

Sirach 5:1-10 says, “Rely not on your wealth; say not, ‘I have the power.’” Here “wealth” means anything that enables human action on earth: wealth of knowledge, talent, energy, resources: none enables us to live or act on the level of God. Only responsive union and interaction with God sharing his own divine life with us does that. Jesus is the vine, we the branches Apart from him we can do nothing.[2]

“Rely not on your strength in following the desires of your heart.” Will power is not enough. To think so is the fast track to discouragement. If we don’t invest time in prayer, the rest of our time will be wasted. Most of us learn this the hard way. Prayer is not our first priority.

“Delay not your conversion to the Lord. Put it not off from day to day.” We intend to “get more religious” someday. When the pressure eases up. When we have more time. When we are older. After we have had some fun. Become accepted in a group. Made a team. Made some money. Sirach answers: “Some day, dumb day!” So does Jesus.[3] Before that day comes, you will have wasted half your life. Or all of it.

When Ben Sira says, “Of forgiveness be not overconfident,” he is not putting limits on God’s mercy. He is just telling us how it works. God “has mercy” by calling us, empowering us to act. If we don’t, we suffer the consequences of whatever we do and don’t do. God will forgive us whenever we turn to him. And he will “take away,” annihilate, all our sins, as if we had never committed them. But lost time is lost time. Jesus promised we would “bear fruit, fruit that will last.” But not if we don’t plant. Not if we don’t receive his word in prayer, water and weed around it.[4]

“Happy are they who hope in the Lord.” They “yield their fruit in its season.” The season is now.

Meditation: What am I waiting for? What do I intend to do “someday”?

[1] John 1:4,12.

[2] John 15:5.

[3] Luke 12:15-59; Matthew 5:25.

[4] John 15:16; Matthew 13:3-23; Galatians 6:6-10.

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