1st Reading – Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
In older Catholic Bibles, this book is listed as Ecclesiasticus, meaning “Church Book.” It received this name from the fact that, after the Psalms, it was the book most used in the liturgy; in fact, in the early Church it was a kind of official catechism used in the catechumenate.
The author of the book is Jesus, the son of Eleazar, of the house of Sirach. His home was Jerusalem, his profession that of a teacher of wisdom. From his youth he had been an ardent student of the Sacred Books of his people. Although he belonged to what might be called the conservative party among the Jews of his time, and clung with every fiber of his heart to the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets of Israel, he was not unfamiliar with Greek thought and life. This was to be expected because he had traveled extensively, not only in Palestine, but far beyond its limits. He describes his education at home and abroad in Sirach 39:1-13.
Jesus Ben Sirach wrote his book during the first decades of the 2nd century before Christ, probably not earlier than 187 B.C. and not later than 171 B.C.. During this period the Jewish nation and the Jewish religion were threatened with extinction. A life and death struggle was waging between the Hellenistic culture predominant in Syria and Egypt and the old religion of the Israelites. Greek manners, customs, philosophy and religion, which were so utterly opposed to the true religion revealed by God to His chosen people, were taking root in the Holy City itself. It was a critical time for the faithful worshipers of Yahweh. Every Jew was called upon to choose between the old and the new, the spirit of Moses and the Prophets, and the spirit of Hellenistic heathenism. Jesus Ben Sirach had long since made his choice. To justify that choice before his countrymen and to instill into them a thorough knowledge and love of their glorious heritage – this was the purpose of this book.
Today, our reading gives us a lesson in humility.
2nd Reading – Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24
Today we end our study of the Book of Hebrews. Having heard last week about how we are to live out our faith and God’s treatment of His sons, today we hear a contrast between the assembly of Israel when the Old Covenant was made and that of those who have entered into the New.
Gospel – Luke 14:1, 7-14
In today’s reading Jesus uses the occasion of a meal and the attendant social etiquette to teach – not about good manners at table, but about the Kingdom. Attendance at the heavenly banquet depends upon an invitation from God. God invites those who recognize their lowliness and their need of salvation.