Introduction to Sirach
The Wisdom of Ben Sira derives its title from the author, “Yeshua [Jesus], son of Eleazar, son of Sira” (50:27). This seems to be the earliest title of the book. The designation “Liber Ecclesiasticus,” meaning “Church Book,” appended to some Greek and Latin manuscripts, is perhaps due to the extensive use the church made of this book in presenting` moral teaching to catechumens and to the faithful. The title “Sirach” comes from the Greek form of the author’s name. The author, a sage who lived in Jerusalem, was thoroughly imbued with love for the wisdom tradition, and also for the law, priesthood, Temple, and divine worship. As a wise and experienced observer of life he addressed himself to his contemporaries with the motive of helping them to maintain religious faith and integrity through study of the books sacred to the Jewish tradition. The book contains numerous well-crafted maxims, grouped by affinity, and dealing with a variety of subjects such as the individual, the family, and the community in their relations with one another and with God. It treats of friendship, education, poverty and wealth, laws, religious worship, and many other matters that reflect the religious and social customs of the time. Written in Hebrew in the early years of the second century B.C., the book was finished by ca. 175. The text was translated into Greek by the author’s grandson after 117 B.C. He also wrote a foreword which contains valuable information about the book, its author, and himself as translator. Until the close of the nineteenth century the Wisdom of Ben Sira was known to Christians in translations, of which the Greek rendering was the most important. From it the Latin version was made. Between 1896 and 1900, again in 1931, and several times since 1956, incomplete manuscripts were discovered, so that more than two thirds of the book in Hebrew is available; these Hebrew texts agree substantially with the Greek. One such text, from Masada, is pre-Christian in date. The New American Bible provides a critical translation based on the evidence of all the ancient texts. Though not included in the Jewish Bible after the first century A.D., nor, therefore, accepted by Protestants, the Wisdom of Ben Sira has been recognized by the Catholic Church as inspired and canonical. The Foreword, though not properly part of the book, is always included with it because of its antiquity and importance. The contents of the Wisdom of Ben Sira are of a discursive nature, not easily divided into separate parts. Chapters 1–43 deal largely with moral instruction; 44:1–50:24 contain a eulogy of the heroes of Israel. There are two appendixes in which the author expresses his gratitude to God (51:1–12), and invites the unschooled to acquire true wisdom (51:13–30).
January 18-Ice trapped the Endurance
Antarctic explorers like Ernest Shackleton who wrote this famous advertisement for men of courage.
Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.
Loyalty-Sir Ernest ShackletonSir Ernest Shackleton like so many of his generation were ultimate adventurers – part hero, part daredevil – fighting the elements and the odds, too far from civilization to call for help – laying it all on the line purely for the love of adventure. Shackleton led a doomed expedition to miraculous survival through the sheer force of his motivational leadership. In 1914, he set out with a crew of twenty-eight men on a quest to be the first to travel across the entire Antarctic continent by way of the South Pole. His ship, Endurance, became caught in ice and was crushed. After abandoning the ship, he and his men faced incredible hardship from a variety of brutal Antarctic conditions – from shifting weather to shifting ice, along with the trials of hunger, illness and discouragement – for more than a year. Yet every man got home safely, when the entire expedition would have perished under weaker leadership. Incredibly, the only casualty was frostbitten toes on one man. He had passion for the adventure of the mission, but he also had passion for the men he led. When he was forced to abandon his doomed ship and realized he would not achieve his goal of reaching the South Pole en route to the other side, he kept his disappointment to himself while he shifted his priorities to the well-being of his men. He said to another leader, F.A. Worsley, “It is a pity [to miss the crossing], but that cannot be helped. It is the men we have to think about. “He put his men above himself. He understood that the survival of them all might well depend on the quality of his leadership. He also realized that he could provide better leadership if he served as well as led. “Shackleton shared the physical labors as well as the watches…[He] would forego his own rations in order to feed the undernourished or the ill. And he often did so without anyone knowing it…Shackleton always put the needs of his men ahead of his personal comfort, and as a result he saved them all.” He realized that in order to survive they would have to stay healthy – mentally as well as physically. When we are trying to survive, having fun is the farthest thing from our minds. It may even be seen as trivializing the suffering. But during harsh tribulation it is more important than ever to find something to enjoy. During hard times we need to find a source of joy in order to maintain a healthy perspective. As a leader, Shackleton accepted responsibility for maintaining the spirits as well as the health of his men. Yes, they were brave adventurers just as Shackleton was, well able to take care of themselves. Still, Shackleton knew that as a leader he could provide a unique kind of influence that would be empowering, energizing and uplifting. He continually sought out ways to boost morale. He set aside time for recreation. They improvised various forms of entertainment. Several of the men had chosen books among the possessions they salvaged, and they read aloud to each other. They played soccer on the ice. “Humor…played a role, with Shackleton telling stories or teasing his men. What Shackleton was doing was keeping his men alive inside; by encouraging them to read or sing, he was keeping their spirits from sagging or dwelling on the inhospitalities that in other circumstances might have overwhelmed them.” He Inspired Loyalty. Shackleton’s passion for his mission and for his men, his passion for leadership, and his passion for motivation were a source of energy and courage during times of severe adversity. These virtues made him a leader that people wanted to follow. Even when his men may not have wanted to do something for themselves, they would do it for him. He inspired this kind of loyalty because he gave it to his men. They respected and trusted him because he respected and trusted them. They took care of him because he took care of them. They put him first because he put them first. He was a wonderful example of what a role model should be.
Shackleton dedicated South, the book he wrote about their extraordinary exploits, “To My Comrades.” In one especially moving passage he observed: “In memories we were rich. We had pierced the veneer of outside things. We had suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled down yet grasped at glory, grown bigger in the bigness of the whole. We had seen God in His splendors, heard the text that natures renders. We had reached the naked soul of man.” Sixty years after they had been rescued, the expedition’s first officer, Lionel Greenstreet, was asked how they had done it, how had they survived such a deadly misadventure. Greenstreet gave a one-word response: “Shackleton.”
The Ice is Nice and Chee-Chee is Peachy
Over 100 years ago Roald Amundsen on March 7, 1912 announced his success in reaching the Geographic South Pole to the world. This is the story about the construction of the South Pole Station in Antarctica in 1973-4 by Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB71), also known as the ICE Battalion, which the author was a member of. The difficulties encountered in the construction of the station were monumental; enduring temperatures reaching 45 degrees below zero with wind chill factors reaching 80 below. This station was comprised of a 52-foot-high geodesic dome, weather balloon launch station and an observation tower for monitoring auroral phenomena. This Battalion was on the ICE for almost five months and worked around the clock to complete the project. This was an amazing fact when you consider that most of the construction was completed in freezing temperatures at a high altitude; for the South Pole is nearly two miles high by construction engineers less than 20 years old. The physical and mental stresses of working in this "frozen desert" took its tolls on these young men. This story chronicles the authors experience in this hostile environment, with bawdy engineers; humorous antics; hard drinking and temporary insanities and the authors faith journey amid the beautify and grandeur of the earth's last frontier: Antarctica. The title of the book is also the motto of the ICE Battalion—it refers to our mission and our R&R (rest and recreation) in Christchurch, New Zealand. “THE ICE IS NICE AND CHEE-CHEE IS PEACHY”
January 18 Saturday
Sirach, Chapter 1, Verse 11-21
11 The fear of the Lord is glory and exultation, gladness and a festive crown. 12 The fear of the Lord rejoices the heart, giving gladness, joy, and long life. 13 Those who fear the Lord will be happy at the end, even on the day of death they will be blessed. 14 The beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord; she is created with the faithful in the womb. 15 With the godly she was created from of old, and with their descendants she will keep faith. 16 The fullness of wisdom is to fear the Lord; she inebriates them with her fruits. 17 Their entire house she fills with choice foods, their granaries with her produce. 18 The crown of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, flowering with peace and perfect health. 19 Knowledge and full understanding she rains down; she heightens the glory of those who possess her. 20 The root of wisdom is to fear the Lord; her branches are long life. 21 The fear of the Lord drives away sins; where it abides it turns back all anger.
For today’s reflection let us replace the word fear with trust; for does He not ask us in the revelation of the Divine Mercy to trust.
· Trust of the Lord is glory.
· Trust of the Lord gives joy.
· Trust of the Lord gives blessedness upon death.
· Trust of the Lord gives wisdom.
· Trust of the Lord gives peace and perfect health.
· Trust of the Lord turns back anger and drives away sin.
397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God's command. This is what man's first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.
2797 Simple and faithful trust, humble and joyous assurance are the proper dispositions for one who prays the Our Father.
2828 "Give us": The trust of children who look to their Father for everything is beautiful. "He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." He gives to all the living "their food in due season." Jesus teaches us this petition, because it glorifies our Father by acknowledging how good he is, beyond all goodness.
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
It's said that the words "Be not afraid" appear in Scripture 366 times one for each day of the year (leap years included). Certainly, we need this sort of ongoing reminder and encouragement; life can be difficult and is often filled with anxieties, great and small. Jesus told St. Martha that, unlike her sister Mary, she was "anxious and troubled about many things." Martha took this correction to heart and learned to trust in the Lord so much so that later, even as she grieved the death of her brother Lazarus, she was able to acknowledge Jesus as the Resurrection and the life. Martha's sister St. Mary Magdalene likewise acknowledged Christ's power on this occasion; she was one of the few followers of Christ who, on Good Friday, dared to proclaim her loyalty to Him publicly by standing beneath His Cross, and for her courage and devotion she was rewarded by being the first witness of the Resurrection.
There's a saying that "Courage is fear that has said its prayers." Prayer is indeed the key to overcoming or coping with anxiety, for it reassures us of God's presence and reminds us of our need to rely on His strength, not on our own. As St. John Vianney said, "God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry." All Christians are called to be a source of strength and courage to others. One who understood this was St. Catherine of Siena, who centuries before women were acknowledged as equal to men used her tremendous influence to guide the affairs of popes and kings. The papacy had found Rome to be hostile and unpleasant and had taken refuge in the French city of Avignon. This "temporary" arrangement dragged on and on, to the detriment of the Church. Catherine finally persuaded a timid Pope Gregory XI to leave Avignon and return to Rome.Another woman of strength and courage was the early third-century martyr St. Perpetua, a young noblewoman (and presumably widow) who had recently given birth to an infant son. After being arrested as a Christian with some companions, she kept diary in prison. She wrote, "What a day of horror! Terrible heat, owing to the crowds! Rough treatment by the soldiers! To crown all, I was tormented with anxiety for my baby. . .. Such anxieties I suffered for many days, but I obtained leave for my baby to remain in the prison with me and being relieved of my trouble and anxiety for him, I at once recovered my health, and my prison became a palace to me and I would rather have been there than anywhere else. St. Perpetua, her companion St. Felicity, and several other Christians were mauled by wild animals and then put to death by the sword; according to legend, the executioner was so shaken by Perpetua's brave demeanor that she herself had to guide his sword to her neck.
Compared with what the martyrs suffered, the things we worry about may seem trifling, but God offers us the same gifts of courage and strength that sustained the martyrs in their trials." Prayer is indeed the key to overcoming or coping with anxiety, for it reassures us of God's presence and reminds us of our need to rely on His strength, not on our own, remember how St. Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to Him for help. This attitude of confidence applies even to our encounters with evil, for St. Teresa of Avila notes that every time evil spirits fail to terrify us or dissuade us from doing good, "they lose strength, and the soul masters them more easily. If the Lord is powerful and they are His slaves, what harm can they do to those who are servants of so great a King and Lord?" Nothing can happen to us without our Father's knowledge and permission, and He is able to arrange all things for our good. We, for our part, however, must avoid useless speculation; as St. Francis de Sales tells us, "It will be quite enough to receive the evils that come upon us from time to time, without anticipating them by the imagination." According to St. Jerome, facing our fears and doing our duty in spite of them is an important way of taking up our cross; thus, we can reassure ourselves that in our efforts to be brave, we are actually serving Christ. One who understood this was St. Thomas More, who from his prison cell wrote to his daughter, "I will not mistrust Him, Meg, although I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. As this English saint notes, we must keep our focus on Christ, not on ourselves; once we turn to Jesus in trust, we are ready to follow the advice of St. Francis de Sales: "If you earnestly desire to be delivered from some evil, or to attain to some good, above all things, calm and tranquilize your mind, and compose your judgment and will; then quietly and gently pursue your aim, adopting suitable means." Jesus offers us His peace; if we accept it and use His grace, nothing shall overcome us.
Take in a Movie at the Sundance Film Festival
The Sundance Film Festival is a 10-day event held every January in Park City, Utah. Get your tickets early, many of 100+ screenings sell out in advance. This very popular festival showcases independent movies from all over the world. Named for Robert Redford's character in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the festival has seen Redford play an integral part in building the festival's status over the years.