Sirach 46: In Praise of Ancestors
A Favorite from January 25, 2010.
In this Noontime we find ourselves in the chapters of the Book of Sirach in which the writer spends time praising the Hebrew ancestors for their openness to God’s message and for their fidelity in following God. In this particular chapter, we relive the Hebrew transition from nomadic tribe to settled people. Joshua and Caleb, two leaders who have always been loyal to Yahweh and who have followed Moses from the beginning of their journey out of Egypt, now lead the people into the place of promise – the territory God secured for his people. The Judges are the leaders who continued to shepherd the Twelve Tribes until the time of the Davidic Kingdom. Samuel is the last of these and we may read more about this federation at the following site if we are looking for more information. http://www.jcpa.org/dje/articles/judges.htm
Notes will tell us that Joshua’s name means: The Lord is savior and this is apt since it is through Joshua’s wisdom and leadership that the Hebrew people are able to conquer enemies and receive their inheritance. The Book of Joshua will give us the details of this story. Caleb, whose name means wholehearted faith and devotion, is also appropriately named. Here is a site with a synopsis of the interesting story these men share. If you like espionage and are intrigued by the seamy parts of life, read about how these two friends who were able to secure a legacy for a people through some very unusual means. http://www.bible-knowledge.com/Joshua-and-Caleb.html
Samuel’s story is well known and the books named for him will remind us of the story read out to us on Sundays during particular times of the liturgical year. We will remember that his mother Hannah prayed for children and was rewarded for her fidelity with the birth of this child and others. We will remember how as a boy he ran to Eli in the temple, thinking that the priest was calling him in the night when all the while it was the voice of God he was hearing. Eli tells him to respond to this voice by replying: Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. Samuel serves God as a prophet, and he becomes the final judge of Israel who ushers in the kingdom by first anointing Saul and later David – all at God’s bidding.
What do these stories mean to us and for us? They tell us about our spiritual roots. They remind us of how and why we are created. They are our link to a past which brings us to this present. They are an opportunity to re-investigate who we are and what we mean.
These stories also bring another opportunity. They are the chance to think about our own immediate ancestors – who they were and what they mean to our own lives. Our forbears may have had a great influence on our spiritual life – either because of their dedication and fidelity to God, or perhaps because of their lack of any spiritual direction. In either case, our predecessors are the flesh from whom we come, they have given to us the habits and gestures we have inherited. Theirs may well be the message that we continue. As we reflect on our roots, we will want to think about whom we praise . . . and why.
Let us take a few moments sometime during this hectic day to reflect on the stories we have heard about the people in our family tree. What message does the story of their lives leave for us? And what part of their story do we wish to pass on as part of the great Story of the World? What or who will our own lives praise?