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Lectionary 341: Wisdom (Sophia)

February 19, 2017


Lectionary 341. Scripture: Feb.20.  Sirach 1:1-10. Psalm 93:1.1-2, 5. Mark 9: 14-29:

The Wisdom literature of the Bible is helpful for daily living.  It is practical wisdom where God teaches us in order to educate us—a thought that is quite Marianist. Sirach belongs to what is called the deuterocanonical books of the Bible. There are seven such books in the Catholic Bible.  Orthodox Christians also have many of the seven and certainly have our Scripture from the Wisdom of ben Sirach. We will be hearing the book of Sirach during this seventh and eighth week of ordinary time during the Liturgy of the Word; it is always our first reading for the day.

We do have the name of the author (Jesus ben Eliezer ben Sirach and the fact that an unknown person wrote the Prologue and translated the Hebrew text into the Greek of Alexander the Great.  Alexander the Great had brought about the necessity of communicating in his language upon the nations he conquered and oppressed.  This work of Sirach was written around 180 B.C. This is confirmed by the information and names of certain priest and one of the leaders of Egypt.  The work emanates from Alexandria in Egypt.  Though it was written in Hebrew and then translated into Greek, it was not received into the Jewish canonical writings because it was too progressive and seemed to be a threat to Judaism.  Parts of it were found in Hebrew near the Dead Sea Scrolls in the year of 1963 and 1965.  A discovery in Cairo in the late middle ages had a large part of it in Hebrew in where the sacred readings were kept in a hidden wall of the synagogue.  The word geniza is used for such a safe keeping of books that are sacred.

I highly recommend that you read the introduction to this Wisdom book that is found in some of the NRSV editions of the Bible.  The background for the work is fascinating.  The Prologue mentions the trials of being a translator for sacred works by the grandson of Sirach. He does this in his Prologue.  We have recovered about 66% of the work in its original Hebrew.  Sirach wrote only in Hebrew.

This Wisdom offers us these facts:  Wisdom is depicted as a woman . The word in Greek is Sophia, a woman’s name and a beautiful name used even today by many women In the world.  Wisdom is concerned with God’s creation and its continuance in the world.  To know this type of Wisdom one must have reverence and even fear of God.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.”  Like other books of wisdom, there are proverbs, hymns, poems, and an alphabetical hymn at the beginning then one at the end which we name as an inclusion. The hymns contain the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet beginning with Alef and continuing to Tau (A-Z, or in Greek Alpha and Omega).

Psalm 93 and its response are our prayer form for today in the Liturgy of the Word.  Its emphasis is on the rule of God over all the universe—a wisdom theme in a psalm of praise. The Psalm is used in the synagogue on Fridays.  It is a Temple Psalm similar to the Zion Psalms (46, 48, 76, 87, 122). With verses dealing with the waters it takes me back to the beginning of Genesis and its first lines.  This fits in with wisdom themes since it is the beginning of God’s creative acts as described in chapter one of Genesis.

The Gospel from Mark gives us a thorough description of Jesus exorcizing the son of an unnamed man.  He does have enough faith to attract the Lord who then heals his son.  The lesson calls for the disciples to have more faith and to pray when it comes to exorcising this kind of a demon.  Like the man, we need to at least say, “I do believe! Help my lack of trust.” This healing and exorcism is a story of the need for deep faith.  Jesus affirms that all things are possible if we have the type of faith needed for conquering evil.  Jesus takes the healed person by the hand and raises him.  It is a story and theme also of the resurrection which also is based on our trust that Jesus has truly risen.  “Lord, increase our faith.” And let us not forget to keep praying daily. Amen.


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