August 28, 2016 — Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Word of God comes to us through Holy Scripture, the Bible. Simply put, the Bible — Old and New Testaments — is a collection of books written over hundreds of years by those inspired by God to write. In many ways it is the primary witness of our faith. Scripture was written by prophets and apostles in human language. However, it was collected, edited, and sanctioned and blessed by the Church. It is a faith document.
Holy Scripture is the direct Word of God as well as being about the Word of God. It reveals God’s revelation of Himself through the words of men. Scripture is indeed the language of our faith. We need to appreciate that Scripture imparts knowledge and wisdom, but we the hearers must listen carefully and seek both information and understanding.
The readings for this Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time are filled with wisdom, as are the readings every day and every week. Our First Reading this week comes to us from the Old Testament Book of Sirach. There was a time in Church history when this book was called “The Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sira.” Ben Sira’s full name according to the Book was Jeshua ben Eleazor ben Sira. Scholars are largely of the opinion that this book was written between 190 and 175 BC. Ben Sira wrote it in Hebrew, but his grandson translated it into Greek. Sirach is similar to Proverbs in that it is intended to transmit wisdom through short sayings.
In today’s First Reading the few verses we have are filled with advice and wisdom for us, including the importance of humility, how we need to seek wisdom, the value of almsgiving, and how we must listen to learn. Each of these is significant in its own way.
Although attributed to St. Paul for centuries, the Epistle (Letter) to the Hebrews from where our Second Reading comes, is definitely in the style of Paul, even if he did not write it. It differs from the other letters, however, in that it is more of a sermon than a letter. There is no greeting at the very beginning of the letter, and there is no definitive statement as to whom the author might be. Today’s reading makes reference to two mountains, and that is substantial in our understanding of it. The two mountains are Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion. In the Old Testament Mt. Sinai was such a holy place that people were forbidden to go near it. Mt. Zion on the other hand was open to all. Mt. Sinai was accessible to Moses, and more or less represents him; Mt. Zion represents Jesus Himself. You might say that Mt. Sinai was about the Law, but Mt. Zion is about the grace of God.
The key piece of wisdom found in Hebrews, and in this reading, nevertheless, is that to follow Jesus and to be His disciple requires perseverance. Thus, in concert with the First Reading we hear of two important aspects of being a Christian and being a good steward: humility and perseverance. Grasping those does move us much closer to wisdom and understanding.
Perhaps the greatest wisdom comes to us in our Gospel from St. Luke. Jesus, too, addresses the issues of humility and perseverance in His parable (popularly called the Parable of the Great Banquet). We must remember that Jesus is actually at a banquet, and the Lord surely witnessed as people scrambled to be in the most prestigious and best seats. Jesus’ point to them and to us is that if we really want to be exalted, we must have the patience and humility and perseverance to wait for God to do it. That is what really matters, not what we may perceive or grasp from our human experiences. Jesus assures us that if we are humble and if we trust in the Lord, we “will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” That is what it is all about, or at least what it should be all about.