First Reading: Sirach 3:2-7, 12-14
Respect for Parents
2 For YHWH sets a father in honor over his children; a mother's authority he confirms over her sons. 3 He who honors his father atones for sins; 4 he stores up riches who reveres his mother. 5 He who honors his father is gladdened by children, and when he prays he is heard. 6 He who reveres his father will live a long life; he obeys the YHWH who brings comfort to his mother.
12 My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. 13 Even if his mind fail, be considerate with him; revile him not in the fullness of your strength. 14 For kindness to a father will not be forgotten, it will serve as a sin offering--it will take lasting root.
New American Bible
Jesus, son of Sirach wrote his wisdom treatise (also known as "Ecclesiasticus" or "Book of the Church") as a text book to train young men entering the bureaucracy in Jerusalem. Authored prior to the Maccabean revolt against the Syrians in 180 B.C., the book contained praises for wisdom and advice for the moral life, especially interpersonal and family relationships. These verses addressed the duty a son owed his parents.
Notice the verses expound upon the Fourth Commandment. A brief reflection on the list of the commandments revealed the esteem placed upon the extended family as the pillar of society. Honoring one's parents was the most important of the commandments that addressed human affairs (more important than murder, theft, adultery, and bearing false witness). Sirach seemed to state that honoring parents was a sign of righteousness. It forgave sin [3:3]. It was a means of divine blessing (children and prayers heard) [3:5]. It was the guarantee of a long life and temporal power [3:6-7]. Even the patience required for the care of elderly parents strengthen character. And God would also look upon the son offering such care with compassion [3:12-14].
Ancient cultures like that in Judea were family-oriented and elderly-centered. Our American culture is just the opposite. What was common necessity then is now considered optional. Yet, the advice given in Sirach is as meaningful today as it was over two millennia ago. Honoring parents creates strong families and strong societies.
The fourth commandment is based upon a deeper command from God: love others as self. Love assumes and builds up respect. How have you shown love and respect to your family members? How have you expected such treatment in return?