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 people plead their case (Jer 14:19-14:22)

“Have you completely rejected Judah?

Does your heart loathe Zion?

Why have you struck us down?

Why is there is no healing for us?

We look for peace.

But we find no good.

We look for a time of healing.

But there is terror instead.

We acknowledge our wickedness!

O Yahweh!

We acknowledge the iniquity of our ancestors!

We have sinned against you!

Do not spurn us!

For your name’s sake,

Do not dishonor your glorious throne!

Remember!

Do not break your covenant with us!

Can any idols of the nations bring rain?

Can the heavens give showers?

Is it not you,

O Yahweh!

Our God?

We set our hope on you.

You do all this.”

Once again, Jeremiah presents the people of Judah pleading their case for God’s mercy. They wanted to know how God could reject Judah and loath Zion, Jerusalem. Why were they stricken? Why was there no healing? They looked for peace, but there was none. Instead of healing, there was more terror. They acknowledged their own wickedness that they shared with their ancestors. They had sinned against Yahweh, God. However, they did not want to be spurned by Yahweh, because that would dishonor his name. They wanted Yahweh to remember his covenant and not break it with them. Then they pointed out that Yahweh could bring rain and showers, but the idols of other nations could not do that. They still had their hope in Yahweh, despite everything, because Yahweh was all powerful.

The final blessing (Sir 51:37-51:38)

“May your soul rejoice

In God’s mercy!

May you never be ashamed

To praise him!

Do your work in good time!

In God’s own time,

He will give you your reward.

The wisdom of Jesus,

Son of Sira.

May the name of the Lord

Be blessed now and forever!”

We now have the final blessing from Sirach. In fact, he kind of signs off on this when he says that this is the wisdom of Jesus, son of Sira, Ben Sira, or Sirach. He wanted our souls to rejoice in God’s mercy. We should never be ashamed to praise God. However, we were to continue our work. God would then reward us in his time schedule. Therefore the name of the Lord should be blessed forever.

A poem in search of wisdom (Sir 51:21-51:25)

“While I was still young,

Before I went on my travels,

I sought wisdom openly

In my prayer.

Before the temple

I asked for her.

I will search for her

Until the end.

From the first blossom

To the ripening grape,

My heart delighted in her.

My foot walked

On the straight path.

From my youth,

I followed her steps.

I inclined my ear a little.

I received her.

I found for myself much instruction.

I made progress in her.

To him who gives wisdom

I will give glory.”

This appendix about wisdom is a Hebrew alphabetic or acrostic poem, like the ending of Proverbs, chapter 31. It follows the hymn to God’s mercy, but had the same numbers so I changed them. This author or Sirach was searching for wisdom since his youth, even before he started traveling. He prayed for wisdom in the Temple. He would continue to search her out until the end of his life. Just as you watch a blossom grow into a grape, he too grew in wisdom and enjoyed every minute of it. He always walked on the straight paths, following in her footsteps. He listened to all the instructions about wisdom as he progressed. Thus he can now give glory to the one who gave him wisdom.

The serpents (Wis 16:10-16:12)

“But your children were not conquered

Even by the fangs of venomous serpents.

Your mercy came to their help.

You healed them.

To remind them of your oracles

They were bitten.

But then they were quickly delivered.

Thus they would not fall into deep forgetfulness.

They would not become unresponsive to your kindness.

Herbs did not cure them.

Poultice did not cure them.

But it was your word,

O Lord!

That heals all people.”

This author continued with the comparison of the Israelites in the wilderness with the deadly serpents the Egyptians endured. In a simplification of the story in Numbers, chapter 21, the children or sons of God (δὲ υἱούς σου) were not conquered by the serpents. God’s mercy came to help them. He healed them. He reminded them of his oracles and words (λογίων σου). Although bitten, they were healed so that they would not fall into a deep forgetfulness. It was not herbs or suave lotions applied to the bite that cured them. It was only the word of the Lord (ὁ σός, Κύριε, λόγος) that healed them.

Tobias and Sarah pray on their wedding night (Tob 8:4-8:5)

When the parents had gone out and shut the door of the room, as the two were alone, Tobias got out of bed and said to Sarah.

‘Sister, get up!

Let us pray and implore our Lord

That he may grant us mercy and safety.’

So she got up. They began to pray and implore that they might be kept safe.”

Now that Tobias had sent the demon fleeing because of the fish smell, Tobias and Sarah were alone in the bedroom. Tobias told Sarah, his new wife, to get up and pray so that they might be safe. He wanted God’s mercy. She did and they began to pray. You can see why many preachers would use this passage as an example for newlyweds.