Reflecting on Sirach 15:15-21
There’s a funny video on the internet of a little boy—maybe four years old—giving his mother an inspirational pep talk. “You!” he says, pointing his finger at her, “You can be anything you want! All you have to do is WANT it bad enough! You could live at the White House! You could be President!”
He goes back to his cheerios, while mom and dad howl in the background. Out of the mouths of babes.
Sirach gives a similar, but much more somber warning, in today’s first reading. There are set before you fire and water. To whichever you choose, stretch out your hands. He isn’t issuing a threat. He’s simply stating the way the world works. That which we reach for will reach back for us.
Resentment? Let it fester, and you’ll have a whole stew of it, ready to poison your whole body. Rage? Rehearse it, feed it, fuel it, and soon you’ll be practicing taking your assault weapon—which represents, of course, another time you reached for fire—into the place of your previous employer.
Sirach is brilliantly paired with the gospel today. We’re still listening to the Sermon on the Mount, and in this section Jesus, the Master Teacher, prods us to live an interior life of goodness. We have the skill to dig deep and name the motivations that lead us into sin. If we are riddled with envy, we have the grace to work backwards and find the trigger for it. By getting to the source, we can stop a Deadly Sin before it kills us.
You can be a better human being! says Jesus. You just have to want it bad enough.
What great sins do you avoid by paying attention to the smaller sins that lead up to them?
Kathy McGovern ©2023