Day 292: The Power of Words
1 Maccabees 11:1-19 Through various intrigues, King Ptolemy of Egypt defeated Alexander, who was beheaded while in exile. Ptolemy, in turn, died within days, leaving Demetrius II to assume the throne of Syria.
Ch 11:20-54 Jonathan attacked the citadel, and Demetrius then sued for peace, confirming Jonathan as high priest and agreeing to suspend the tribute tax in Judea and Samaria. When Demetrius dismissed his army during this time of peace, they revolted against him. Jonathan agreed to come to the aid of Demetrius if he would remove his troops from the citadel in Jerusalem. The Jews helped defeat the uprising and a time of peace followed, but Demetrius did not keep his promise.
Ch 11:54-74 Trypho, a Greek general who had backed Alexander and had the support of the disgruntled Syrian army, claimed the throne for young Antiochus VI, chasing Demetrius from Antioch. Jonathan and Simon backed Antiochus against Demetrius. When Jonathan’s men fled in the middle of battle, Jonathan’s prayers and repentance brought them back to secure victory.
Sirach 28:1-11 Forgiveness of sin is central to our redemption in Christ. Since God is so lavish in his mercy, we must also forgive those who have wronged us. Christ taught that we will receive mercy in proportion to the mercy we show others. In the Lord’s Prayer we express a commitment to show mercy when we say, “Forgive us our debts, as also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt 6:12). Lack of forgiveness, bearing grudges, and an arrogant bearing are tendencies that are incompatible with a Christian spirit and must be replaced with charity and kindness. (CCC 2447, 2646, 2844)
Ch 28:12-26 Slander, a false statement against someone’s reputation, is an offense against the Eighth Commandment and is contrary to both justice and charity. Slander is one of the several sins that Christ identified as coming “out from the heart” (cf. Mt 15:18-20). (CCC 2475-2479; 2482-2487)
Ch 29:1-28 The Law of Israel forbade the charging of interest on loans and called for a forgiveness of debt every jubilee (fiftieth) year. The author offers codes of behavior for both borrowers and lenders, calling upon borrowers to be conscientious about their debts and upon lenders to deal compassionately with those who struggle to repay them. The Church has long condemned usury, which is the act of charging unjust and excessive interest. (CCC 2438, 2448-2449)
Proverbs 23:10-11 God is shown to have a special predilection for the orphan, and Scripture often speaks in their defense. Injustice and oppression of orphans ranks among the sins that cry to heaven. (CCC 1867)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
Ok so a couple of quick things
Ok three things
Let’s go somewhat in reverse 3...1…2 🤔
There is a proverb we heard today that is very similar to a proverb we hard before
Proverbs 23:10-11, “Do not remove an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless; for their Redeemer is strong; he will plead their cause against you.”
There was a proverb we read earlier that was similar in the sense of, “Do not remove those ancient signs...don’t tear down altars...don’t tear down fences.”
It’s the sense of, “If I come across something…”
This is so interesting when it comes to wisdom
There is a man named G.K. Chesterton who may not have been the first one to point it out, since we have it here in Proverbs
He was formerly an atheist at the beginning of the 20th century then he became a Catholic
He pointed out that when it came to wisdom...
And this is one of the things that we are trying to GROW IN as we follow God’s Word...we are trying to grow in WISDOM
He said, “If you were to buy a piece of land and you came across a fence on your piece of land, and you did not know why it was there, the most foolish thing to do would be to say, ‘I don’t know why this is here. I’m going to tear it down.’”
The most foolish thing would be to say, “I don’t know why someone would build this. I don’t see any purpose for it. Let’s eliminate it.”
That would be the most foolish thing you could possibly to do, to tear down something because YOU DID NOT UNDERSTAND why someone would build it in the first place
THAT IS SO WISE!!
A lot of times when we encounter the Lord, or even anytime in our daily life, we might not understand a commandment of God
We might say, “Well I don’t know why this is here. Let’s just dismiss it.”
We might encounter the Wisdom of God and think, “I don’t know exactly what is this for? What’s the point of this?”
And then we could be tempted to tear it down or eliminate it
Chesterton, and here in Proverbs, say that is the LAST TIME that a person should tear something down
WHEN YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY THEY PUT IT UP IN THE FIRST PLACE
“I don’t know why this fence is here.”
At some point, though, it was put there FOR A REASON
It might be because the people who were previously there had cattle and put up the fence to keep the cattle in
“Ok, well I don’t own any cattle now. Maybe I can tear down the fence because I know the reason why it’s there and I know that reason no longer applies.”
THAT IS SMART
THAT IS WISDOM
To say, “I don’t know the history of this place...”
Maybe this fence is because right beyond the fence there is a cliff and people have wandered off the cliff
Therefore, here is the fence that helps us
When we don’t understand why a thing is there, the LAST THING I should possibly do, if I am going to be WISE is to TEAR IT DOWN
That is the wisdom here in Proverbs
That is the wisdom here in our lives
Now onto 1 Maccabees Ch 11
This is a history lesson
One of the things that Fr. Mike just…
He hates to say this on the eleventh day of walking through Maccabees
“Oh, Father, you are finally saying this?”
He probably should have said this before we even started Maccabees
So many books of the Bible are HISTORICAL BOOKS
We’ve gone through the narrative
Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges
These are TELLING THE STORY
Here is the interesting thing
Virtually all of those tellings of the story have been DIFFERENT FROM 1 MACCABEES
2 Maccabees is going to be a whole other thing
Those other stories, things would happen
There would be battles
There would be prayers
There would be failure
There would be victory
And all the while, the Sacred Author would be saying, “Here is what this means.”
“Here is where God was present.”
“Here is where God was absent.”
“Here is where they were unfaithful, and that led to this.”
Basically, all of those other historical books look through the LENS OF FAITH
How is God present?
How is God active?
How are the people faithful?
How are the people unfaithful?
1 Maccabees Ch 11 highlights the fact that the Sacred Author, even though it is divinely inspired and telling us this REAL HISTORY…
The Sacred Author DOES NOT GIVE US A SERMON
The Sacred Author DOES NOT SAY, “HERE IS WHERE GOD WAS PRESENT.”
Yes, in some of the battles the Sacred Author says, “Here is Judas Maccabeus and he prayed and he had victory.”
It is not as clearly marked out and delineated as it is in the other books
Basically, the Sacred Author is JUST TELLING US THE STORY with very little “editorial comments”
WHICH IS FASCINATING TO US
Because we are so used to the “editorial comments”
We are so used to, “Well tell me what this means through the eyes of faith.”
As we go through 1 Maccabees we have to realize this is a book of faith
BUT THE SERMON IS LEFT OUT
So we have 5 chapters left in 1 Maccabees
KEEP THAT IN MIND
THE SERMON IS LEFT OUT
So we are getting the story of the rise and the fall of these dynasties and kings
Basically, as Jeff Cavins said in Era 10: Maccabean Revolt, THIS IS STILL THE STORY OF THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL
THIS IS NOT GOD BEING SILENT FOR 400 YEARS
THIS IS GOD BEING VERY VERY PRESENT
THIS IS GOD BEING VERY VERY ACTIVE
THIS IS GOD BEING VERY VERY ENGAGED
WE HAVE TO HAVE THE EYES TO SEE IT FOR OURSELVES BECAUSE THE SACRED AUTHOR IS NOT GOING TO POINT IT OUT FOR US!!
Ok now #3….or is it #2? Whatever….Onward to Sirach
Sirach is a lot like Proverbs and other WISDOM books
Sometimes, it can feel like disjointed advice
There are themes that come up VERY REGULARLY
One of those themes is THE POWER OF WORDS
Sirach 28:11, “A hasty quarrel kindles fire, and urgent strife sheds blood.”
How many times have people, families, brothers, sisters, parents, been DIVIDED because of a HASTY QUARREL?
We rushed into a fight we SHOULD NOT HAVE FOUGHT…
BUT WE DID IT ANYWAY
Where does that come from?
Sirach 28:12, “If you blow on a spark, it will glow; if you spit on it, it will be put out; and both come out of your mouth.”
THAT IS SO TRUE!!
Blow on an ember and it will glow and will hopefully grow into a flame if you want to burn off the wings of a mosquito 😉
Spitting on the ember puts it out
BOTH COME FROM THE SAME SOURCE
So what are the things that are coming out of my mouth?
Do they bring warmth and light?
Do they bring destruction and devastation?
Sirach 28:13, “Curse the whisperer and deceiver, for he has destroyed many who were at peace.”
Almost all of the remainder of Sirach Ch 28 talks about the POWER OF WORDS
THE POWER OF TONGUES
THE POWER OF WHAT WE SAY
And how...you know…
Oftentimes, the last thing that people will confess in confession is GOSSIP OR SLANDER OR JUST ANY TALKING ABOUT ANYONE ELSE
That’s what you might call “an acceptable sin” in our day and age
What Fr. Mike means is the kind of sin that you can USE AS A PERSONAL EXAMPLE
“Oh yeah, I struggle with anger! I struggle with slander!”
Those things are way more acceptable to say and we think, “Oh yeah, me too!”
Some of the other non-acceptable sins are things that we wouldn’t necessarily use as our personal examples
“Well, I struggle with this thing. I can’t even think of an example right now that isn’t embarrassing to say.”
Last thing here in Sirach 28:17-18, “The blow of a whip raises a welt, but a blow of the tongue crushes the bones. Many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but not so many as have fallen because of the tongue.”
OUR WORDS ARE SO POWERFUL!!
So we ask the Lord, “Please help us to use our words well, to be wise in how we speak, and to give you, Lord, glory and not destruction for the people around us.”
That is a struggle for a lot of us
SO WE NEED PRAYERS!!
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. Thank you so much for this gift. Thank you for unfolding the story. This is part of our story, the story of the Maccabees, the story of the people of Israel, and the story of the history of the world. Lord God, your hand is hidden in the affairs of our lives and we ask you to please give us the eyes of faith, so that we can see your working. Give us a heart of faith, that we can trust in your presence. And give us a lively and active faith that we can put your commandments into practice, put your wisdom into action, and help us to follow you this day and every day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”