Daily Reflection June 1st, 2020

Daily Reflection June 1st, 2020

JUNE 1 Martyr Justin the Philosopher of Rome, and those with him

…The Talmud seethes with evil and malice toward the Lord. But all of those worthless calumnies are refuted by the most prominent historian of the Jews, Josephus Flavius, a rabbi and scholar who lived near the end of the first century after Christ. Josephus writes: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call Him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to Himself both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ. And when Pilate, at the denunciation of the most eminent men among us, had Him condemned to the cross, those that loved Him from the first did not forsake Him. He appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold, and they foretold many other things concerning Him. And the sect of Christians, so named after Him, remains to the present day.” [Antiquities of the Jews, Volume 2, Page 45 1845 Edition]. Thus wrote a man who did not believe in Christ but was a scholar free of prejudice and malice. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr John’s Reflection

Therefore, be ashamed on the basis of my word, for it is not good to protect every kind of shame, and not everything is highly esteemed by all with confidence. Be ashamed of fornication before father or mother; of a lie before your leader or ruler; of an offense before a judge or ruler; of lawlessness before the assembly of the people; of wrongdoing before your partner or friend; of theft in the place where you dwell. Be ashamed before the truth of God and His covenant, and of bad manners at the table; of contemptuous behavior in receiving and giving; of silence before those who greet you; of looking at a prostitute; of rejecting the appeal of a kinsman; of carrying off someone’s portion or gift, and of staring at another man’s wife; of meddling with his maidservant — and do not come near her bed. Be ashamed of insulting words before friends, and do not be insulting after making a gift; of repeating and telling what you hear and revealing secrets. So be truly modest and find favor before every man. (Wisdom of Sirach 41:16-27)

My personal reading today brings us these very simple, yet powerful and profound words from the Wisdom of Sirach. Shame is a powerful tool — it can build up and it can destroy a person. Shame is the opposite of modesty. Both are in short supply in today’s world. It seems as if there is nothing shameful to people nowadays. Whether it is in clothing that is, at best, provocative and revealing or at worst, borderline pornographic; or it is in the defacement of the human body; or it is in “stabbing someone in the back” to get ahead; or it is falling into sexual relationships before or outside of marriage; or it is in entertainment that has no business crossing the eyes and ears of a Christian — no matter the numerous examples we can site, shame does not seem to be part of most people’s consciences. We are ashamed of nothing in today’s world. But shame is a powerful motivator to repentance, which is the foundation of our relationship of love and forgiveness with God.

Ben Sirach compiles a very practical list of things that each of us should be ashamed of doing: fornication, lying, lawlessness (today that seems in ample supply in our cities), wrongdoing to friends and neighbors, theft, bad manners, looking at prostitutes (or those who make themselves look like prostitutes), denying help to kinsmen, longing for another’s spouse or servant, insulting words, gossip and revealing secrets. Most of those simple infractions seem almost quaint to our contemporary ears, but they are not. They are basic, fundamental, human behaviors that anyone of faith should be striving to avoid. A simple lesson today is to stop doing them if we have allowed ourselves to fall into those behaviors.

But a more positive, and certainly Christian, response is not just the negative — “stop doing those things” — but something active as well, be modest. A person with true modesty (one might also say humility) would be chaste outside of marriage, faithful in marriage (do I need to say “monogamous, heterosexual” marriage?), truthful, law-abiding, good to neighbors and friends, dressed in a fashion that does not accentuate and call attention to body parts that should be unavailable to others’ eyes, polite, discreet with the words and thoughts of others, and knowing and glorifying the creation that God has made each and every one of us. I have to say in all humility that I would be embarrassed, yes ashamed, to undress in front of someone not my wife or my doctor (and even the doctor causes me some pause!). That does not seem to be the case with many in our culture today. We all stand before “the truth of God and His covenant.” (41:20) The world would be a better place, and we would be better persons, if we remembered where we stand and took a moment to contemplate Ben Sirach’s words and put away all the shameful things that we can fall into, and embrace a great deal more modesty.

Tomorrow we will hear what Ben Sirach says are the things about which we should not be ashamed.