February 27, 2022 Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Welcome Father Martin Today’s Readings: Sir 27:4-7 | 1 Cor 15:54-58 | Lk 6:39-45

[Jesus Sirach] is a wisdom teacher. He stands on the shoulders of the bodily experiences of his ancestors and their testimonies. King Solomon is the most famous among them. Generations before him wrote down what they experienced and suffered in their dealings with their kind, with our kind. How they became wise from harm and, although wise, came to harm.

But his wisdom reaches much further back into the past. It goes all the way back to ancient Egypt. For him, too, this time lies two or even three thousand years in the past. Why does he direct his stream into this river that has been flowing around our human activities and dealings with each other for almost eternity?

Because he sees something at risk. He is writing at a time when a new culture is meeting his old one.

There is nothing to be said against that. Our living togetherness, especially where different ways of life and ways of thinking meet, produces new ways of life and ways of thinking. It’s like being in a test tube in a chemistry lab. […]

But for the comparison to be correct, something crucial is missing. And that is also Jesus Sirach’s question to the new culture of Hellenism. Because everything people do and say among themselves, the horizontal connection, so to speak, intersects with the vertical connection: the relationship to God, to the Creator, to the wisdom of the beginning. I would call that simply piety. And this piety threatens to fall by the wayside for the wise Jesus Sirach in the new way of life of Hellenism. What is meant is the traditional piety of his people, of Israel, as it was expressed in the Scriptures and filled with life. For us as the ICC, this means the orientation towards the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, whom we confess as the Messiah, in the tradition of the Church, which unites us beyond all differences.

The wise men before Jesus Sirach and he himself never understood their wisdom as purely profane tips for career planning. All exploration and testing of man is done under the eyes of Him who knows and tests the heart and kidneys and sees completely through them. The highest wisdom is therefore the fear of God (Sir 1:11-20). This does not mean fear and loathing before God, but a practice of life that tests everything, according to human standards, with wisdom and experience, and according to the divine standard as it is revealed. Then the good remains in the sieve, then what seems good and right to us is hardened in the furnace. Then we recognise a good person by what good he or she does, says, thinks. Like a tree that bears good fruit.

Jesus Sirach and Jesus of Nazareth tell us nothing today about the criteria for what is “good”. In the book that bears his name, Jesus Sirach does. We have already heard it. For him, all action, speech, thought that is shaped by the fear of God is wholesome, good, helpful for us human beings. It is the pinnacle of what he calls wisdom, that is, wise living.

Jesus of Nazareth helps us today to pay special attention to two points. In his Gospel, he gives us images for testing one another and for our own individual testing.

When we consult, orient ourselves to others, hope for help from others, it may be that it is a blind person, that the other has a splinter in his eye. But Jesus advises us not to be too quick to think that the other person is incapable or limited. Do you remember last Sunday? Stop judging, stop condemning. This does not mean not to judge. It means very much to be cautious in assuming one’s own perspicacity and uncloudedness. Before we point out the faults of others, he advises us to have a realistic, unclouded self-assessment. It is about humility and mercy and consideration. Christ encourages us to help each other and also to criticise each other. He wants us and hopes that faith, love and hope will grow in us, and that we will help each other. But he also wants us to examine ourselves again and again to see how we see, how big our splinter is in our own eye, or whether it is even a beam. Our hearts are not naturally good and always remain so. But we can shape them well, by drawing one another’s attention to observations in all prudence and self-criticism. But above all, by looking to him, our Lord and brother, Jesus Christ, his example, his life, his words.

Source of reflection: P. Martin Müller SJ (2022) Source of image: “Jesus Ben Sirach” (1860), woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Sira#/media/File:Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern_1860_149.png


  • 2 March - There will be no Ash Wednesday service in English at ICCH. For a list of church services in the German-speaking Catholic communities of Heidelberg, please refer to https://www.stadtkirche-heidelberg.de/gottesdienste/