Friday of week 4 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on Sirach 47:2-11

Our final reading about David. It comes from the poetic and apocryphal Book of Sirach (also known as Ecclesiasticus) which contains a lengthy section (chaps 44-50) praising the great figures of Israel’s history.

Here we have Sirach’s eulogy of David which in poetic language recalls the highlights of his life.

He was a person set apart, in the way that in a sacrifice the fat is set apart from the rest of the flesh offering. From his youth, he stood out “playing with lions as though with young goats and with bears as though with lambs of the flock”.

He was still a boy when he took on the Philistine giant, Goliath, and brought him down with one shot from his sling, thus relieving his people of their shame. Because of this he won the enthusiastic support of the people. “They gave him credit for ten thousand”, in contrast to Saul who, they said, only killed his thousands.

He was regularly victorious against their enemy, the Philistines and crushed their “horn”, that is, their power.

At the same time, he constantly gave glory and praise to his Lord. David is famous in the Old Testament as a maker and performer of music. The Psalms have been attributed to him although, of course, he could not have written them all as their composition extends over a long period of time.

He created liturgies so that feasts could be celebrated with fitting splendour “causing the Lord’s holy name to be praised and the sanctuary to resound from dawn”.

The deeply sinful parts of his life are summed up in one short sentence: "The Lord forgave him his sins." And he was totally rehabilitated: "[The Lord] exalted his strength forever."

It is right to concentrate on a person’s virtues and achievements and especially their relationship with God and their fellow-men. That is what Sirach does here.

Unfortunately, the words of Mark Antony about Caesar in Shakespeare’s play are often too : "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." But a Latin tag is more to be followed: De mortuis nil nisi bonum (Say nothing but good about those who have died).

Yet, what makes many of the saints saints is precisely how sin was turned to good in their lives. We can think of Paul, Augustine, Ignatius Loyola among many others.

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