Reflection on Today’s Daily Readings by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM
Scripture: Lectionary # 368 (June 17). Sirach 48:1-14. Psalm 97:
1-2,3-4.5-6.7. Matthew 6:7-15.
Ben Sira or the Book of Sirach is a Wisdom book of the Bible. It is a
deuterocanonical work done in Septuagintal Greek (circa 180 B.C.) and has
several verses dedicated to the great heroes and saints of the past. Today
we are fortunate to read what he says about Elijah whom we have been
following this past week in our first readings in the liturgy of the word.
Sira summarizes with clarity and preciseness the role Elijah played in the
history of his people. Ben Sira was a native of Jerusalem who devoted
himself to the study of the Hebrew Scriptures (Tanakh) and as a respected
teacher he had founded an academy for young men. “In his extensive
travels (34:12-13) he came in contact with other cultures and wisdom
traditions and acquired “much cleverness” (34:11; and he did not hesitate
to use what he had learned as long as he could make it conformable to his
Jewish heritage and traditions (39:1-11).” (New Jerome Biblical Commentary,
p.496). He was especially fond of relying on Psalms 9-10; 25; 33;34; 119;
the Book of Proverbs and Lamentations 1-5. The book was originally written
in Hebrew and fragments have been discovered with the Dead Sea Scroll
discoveries. Probably 68 percent of the work in Hebrew has been recovered.
The work has fifty one chapters and is among the longest in the Bible. Our
text is found in the section that praises Israel’s great ancestors from the
great patriarchs down to Simeon, Son of Jochanan (50:25-29).
Our Gospel text gives us the Lord’s Prayer according to the tradition found
in Matthew. It is the one used in our liturgy before Communion and is more
a liturgical form than that found in Luke’s shorter version. The early
teaching document called the Didache also has a form very similar to that
of Matthew. Many say this prayer at least three times a day if they
participate in the Mass and recite the Divine office or Liturgy of the
Hours at Morning Praise and Evensong (Vespers). Those who say the rosary
have six Our Fathers for each of the mysteries if they say one after the
Creed. Two early Church writers, Origen and Cyprian have spiritual
commentaries on the Our Father.
Father Raymond E.Brown (+Aug.9,1998) has an excellent article on the Lord’s
Prayer showing the petitions and their meaning (New Testament Essays, New
York, 1983). This is a worthwhile work on the Lord’s Prayer for nourishing
the most familiar prayer we Christians pray. Another work done by a
Jewish scholar is that of J.Petuchowski, “The Lord’s Prayer in Jewish
Literature (New York, Seabury, 1978). We may wish to focus on one of the
petition today for a short meditation…”Thy will be done on earth as it is
in heaven.” Amen.