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There are mysteries of the Bible and there are mystery books of the Bible and one may be the Book of Sirach.

Arcane wisdom one finds here!

Often, in life, we think we have it all set forth; we think we know the rules of holiness; we think we know the parameters of love. We know it all!


But there is always more to learn -- in such a complex universe.

For instance: while we are called to be hospitable -- and certainly to love, help, and serve everyone we can -- we are also called to caution.

"Bring not every man into your house," says Sirach 11:29, "for many are the snares of the crafty one."

"Lodge a stranger with you, and he will subvert your course," it adds a few verses later, "and make you a stranger in your household."

How often do we expose ourselves to what we should not be exposed, because we have not prayed for direction first?

And how often do we pray to prevent illness and disease -- instead of waiting to pray once it comes?

"Be informed before speaking," says Sirach 18:8. "Before sickness, prepare the cure."

The highest love, perhaps, is sometimes tough love. Sirach is filled with that.

The highest love is also practiced, often, through detachment.

When we cling to things or people or jobs, we distance ourselves (too often) from God (unless we are clinging to Him!).

Sirach is filled with words of wisdom that are confusing at times -- at other times, inspiring.

We write a lot about the afterlife. "Seven days of mourning for the dead," says Sirach 22:11. "For grief can bring on an extremity and heartache destroy one's health," adds 38:19.

"Be brief, but say much in those few words (32:8). Be like the wise man, taciturn." Which means "disinclined to talk." How often do we speak too much? Should we avoid those who talk too much about themselves (indicating a narcissistic personality)?

"Never repeat gossip, and you will not be reviled," states 19:7-8. "Tell nothing to friend or foe; if you have a fault, reveal it not, for he who hears it will hold it against you. Let anything you hear die within you; be assured it will not make you burst."

He who hates?

That, says Sirach, is one who "gives little and criticizes often."

Did you ever stop to think of how worthless it is to criticize someone behind their backs?

Who benefits?

"A fall to the ground," it says, "is less sudden than a slip of the tongue."

How we suffer from this! How we all talk too much (and pray too little). The more we pray, the less we speak -- even when calumniated.

"No evil can harm the man who fears the Lord," says 33:1. "Through trials, again and again, he is safe."

If we have God, there is no need to spend much time in self-defense.

He will come to our aid.

If we are right with God, what do we care what others think about us?

[Michael Brown retreat, Wisconsin: your mission in life, how God will see you and Announcing a retreat in Connecticut]

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