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.”  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.
“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. 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.
“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”?
 John 1:4,12.
 John 15:5.
 Luke 12:15-59; Matthew 5:25.
 John 15:16; Matthew 13:3-23; Galatians 6:6-10.