First Reading: Sirach 15:15-20

The Right Choice

How do you know you're making the right choice?

15 He added his commandments and precepts.
16 If you choose to keep the commandments,
and if, having chosen them, you fulfill them with perpetual fidelity,
they will preserve you.
17 He has set water and fire before you.
Extend your hand to whichever one you would choose.
18 Before man is life and death, good and evil.
Whichever one he chooses will be given to him.
19 For the wisdom of God is manifold.
And he is strong in power, seeing all things without ceasing.
20 The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him,
and he knows each one of the works of man.

Catholic Public Domain Version

The book of Sirach was the only book in the Wisdom literature whose author could be named. Jesus ben Sirach (in Hebrew, Jeshua ben Sira) wrote his tome as a leadership textbook for his students in Jerusalem before the Maccabbean revolt. This book covered social advice and moral exhortation, as well as religious guidelines. The text strove to answer the question, how can I live as a faithful person is culture that can be foreign, even hostile to my faith? (Because of the details his translating grandson wrote in the prologue, scholars assume ben Sira wrote his work in 180 B.C. when the Hellenistic Syrians controlled Judea and pushed a Greek culture onto the populace.)

Living in a multi-cultural world presents choices and this was no less true for the readers of Sirach. They had to choose between the allures of a Greek lifestyle and a life faithful to the commandments. Sirach presented the choice as one between live and death, good and evil. Obedience to God's Law led to God himself. If his Law seemed unreasonable or inconvenient, one must remember that God was wiser than humanity, his power was unlimited, his knowledge was universal. He sees each person as he is and knows more than any person can possibly dream of.

Of course, we live in a different time, in a different place and in a different culture than the Jews under the thumb of the Syrian kings, but the fundamental choice remains the same. Do we seek God or do we give into the allures of the world? At times, the choice can be clear-cut; at times, the choice can be murky. If we seek God's will, the advice of the wise and the peace of conscience over the passions of desire, we can be assured that we made the best choice we possibly could. And, in most cases, we made the right choice.

How do you seek God's will over your own? How do you seek the wise in your life? How successful have you been in saying "No" to your desires?