Mercy and fear (Lk 1:50-1:50)

“His mercy

Is for those

Who fear him

From generation

To generation.

 

καὶ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς τοῖς φοβουμένοις αὐτόν.

 

This canticle of Mary was modeled on that of Hannah in 1 Samuel, chapter 2:1-10, that praised Yahweh for her son, the prophet Samuel.  Luke indicated that Mary said that God’s mercy (καὶ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ) was from generation to generation (εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς) to those who feared him (τοῖς φοβουμένοις αὐτόν).  Fear of the Lord was the first step towards seeking mercy from God, no matter when you lived.

The Spirit of Yahweh (Isa 11:1-11:3)

“A shoot shall come out

From the stump of Jesse.

A branch shall grow out

Of his roots.

The Spirit of Yahweh shall rest upon him,

The spirit of wisdom,

The spirit of understanding,

The spirit of counsel.

The spirit of might,

The spirit of knowledge,

The spirit of piety,

The fear of Yahweh.

His delight shall be

In the fear of Yahweh.”

In this oracle of Yahweh, via Isaiah, the Spirit of Yahweh, the Lord, will rest upon a future king. This king will have his roots in Jesse, the father of David. Thus the Spirit of Yahweh will rest upon someone in the royal line of David. Thus there was great concern to have Jesus be in the line of David, via Joseph. What is the Spirit of Yahweh? For many Christians, it is what they call the “Holy Spirit.” Thus the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of the Lord are one and the same. Since the early CE centuries, Christians have associated this Spirit of Yahweh with anointing, the laying on of hands, or as the western Christians, since the Middle Ages, like to call it confirmation. Thus this sevenfold gift prayer of the Holy Spirit has been part of the Roman Catholic confirmation ritual. The 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit are then wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. In fact, this almost sounds like the later sapiential literature with its emphasis on wisdom and the fear of God. Thus the Christians, with their anointing or confirmation, see the special gift of the Holy Spirit, as described here in Isaiah, present in their ritual worship service of chrismation or confirmation.

Conclusion (Sir 50:27-50:29)

“I have written

In this book about

Instruction in understanding.

I have written about knowledge.

I am

Jesus son of Eleazar,

Son of Sirach,

Of Jerusalem.

My mind poured forth wisdom.

Happy are those

Who concerns themselves

With these things.

Those who lay them to heart

Will become wise.

If they put them into practice,

They will be equal to anything.

The fear of the Lord is their path.”

This appears to be the original ending of this book as Jesus son of Eleazar, son of Sirach, explains who he is and why he wrote this book. He wrote this work to instruct people in understanding. He wanted to give them more knowledge. He has poured out his wisdom. Now he would be happy if anyone concerned themselves about these things. Let them take these things to heart and become wise also. So much the better, if they put these things into practice. If they do, the fear of the Lord will be their path.

Fear of the Lord (Sir 40:26-40:27)

“Riches build up confidence.

Strength builds up confidence.

But the fear of the Lord is

Better than either.

There is no want

In the fear of the Lord.

With it,

There is no need

To seek for help.

The fear of the Lord is

Like a garden of blessings.

It covers a person

Better than any glory.”

Once again, Sirach continues with his comparisons. However, this time, the best is the fear of the Lord. Riches and strength might make you feel confident. Yet the fear of the Lord is better than money and power in developing your self-confidence. When you fear the Lord, you will not have any need to seek help from anyone or anything. The fear of the Lord is like a garden of blessings that covers you better than any glory can.

Fear of the Lord (Sir 34:14-34:20)

“The spirit of those

Who fear the Lord

Will live.

Their hope is in him

Who saves them.

Those who fear the Lord

Will not be timid.

They will not play the coward.

He is their hope.

Happy is the soul

That fears the Lord!

To whom does he look?

Who is his support?

The eyes of the Lord

Are on those who love him.

The Lord is a mighty shield.

The Lord is a strong support.

The Lord is a shelter

From the scorching wind.

The Lord is a shade

From the noonday sun.

The Lord is a guard

Against stumbling.

The Lord is a help

Against falling.

He lifts up the soul.

He makes the eyes sparkle.

He gives health.

He gives life.

He gives blessings.”

Sirach emphasizes the importance of fearing God with its consequences. Those who fear the Lord will live. They have hope that the Lord will save them. They will not be cowards or timid. The reason for their hope is that the Lord supports them. He loves them since he is like a shield. He provides shelter for them against the hot winds and shade against the hot midday sun. The Lord keeps them from stumbling or falling. He lifts up their souls as he makes their eyes sparkle. He gives them health, life and blessings. A lot of good things happen when you fear the Lord.

Fear of the Lord (Sir 32:14-32:17)

“Whoever seeks God

Will accept his discipline.

Whoever rises early

To seek him

Will find his favor.

Whoever seeks the law

Will be filled with it.

But the hypocrite

Will stumble at it.

Whoever fears the Lord

Will form true judgments.

They will kindle righteous deeds

Like a light.

The sinner

Will shun reproof.

He will find a decision

According to his liking.”

Once again, Sirach has linked everything to the fear of God. Anyone who is seeking God must accept God’s discipline. You have to get up early to seek God. You should seek the law and be filled with it. The law, of course, means the commandments of God. You should not be a hypocrite who stumbles around. If you fear the Lord, you will make true judgments that will end up with righteous deeds that kindle a light like a fire. The sinner does not like to be reprimanded. The sinner likes only the decisions that fit his way of thinking.

The profit motive (Sir 27:1-27:3)

“Many have committed sin

For a trifle gain.

Whoever seeks to get rich

Will avert their eyes.

As a stake is driven firmly

Into a fissure between stones,

So sin is wedged

In between

Selling and buying.

If a person is not steadfast

In the fear of the Lord,

His house

Will be quickly overthrown.”

Sirach reminds us that many sins have been committed over the attempt to make a small profit. Those who seek to get rich turn their eyes away from morality. Just as a stake is usually placed between 2 stones, so too you will find some sin between the buying and selling of a product. If you are not steadfast in your fear of the Lord, your house will be quickly overthrown. Sirach was no friend of capitalism.