This Sunday our Liturgy of the Word begins with a reading from the Book of Sirach. In some Bibles the title of the book is the Wisdom of Ben Sira, which means son of Sira. It is also known as Ecclesiasticus, or Church Book, because it was widely used to teach converts. It is full of teachings about how to live our lives wisely and well.
In the reading for this week, Sirach speaks to us of the importance of obeying God’s Commandments and tells us that our choices have serious consequences. “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you.” The purpose of God’s law is to help us, to save us. Think of how we teach our children not to run out into the street. We are not trying to limit their freedom or to somehow take all the fun out of life. We are trying to save their lives. When God gives us His law, it is for the same purpose. God loves us and wants us to be healthy and safe. The rebel inside each of us has a hard time grasping that. The law is a problem rather than a blessing.
Sirach goes on, “If you trust in God you shall live.” Is he saying that if we do not trust God, then God is going to “get us,” to make us pay for not trusting him? Absolutely not. But if we do not trust God, and choose our own path, we will put ourselves into spiritual and even physical danger. Once again, we see that God’s law is a blessing for us, to help us to live our lives as fully as possible.
“He has set before you fire and water; to whichever you choose, stretch out your hand. Before man are life and death, good and evil; whichever he chooses shall be given him.” Our choices have consequences. If I choose to drink and drive, and I wrap my car around a tree, I cannot blame God, and say, “Why did God make me wreck my car?” I did that. If I smoke throughout my life and develop lung cancer, does it make sense for me to blame God for giving me cancer? No.
When we choose the behavior, we choose the consequences. These may be consequences of health, finances, healthy or unhealthy relationships, etc., and some consequences are eternal as well. God is trying to show us how to live wisely and productively. Jesus tells us, “I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” That is His plan for us.
–Fr. Mike Comer