Another translation puts today’s verse this way, “God does not withdraw his mercy, nor permit even one of his promises to fail” (Sirach 47:22) What is obvious here is that when God’s mercy is given it is never abandoned or taken away. His words, his promises are true and eternal, they cannot, and will not, die or fail. What God says and does is perfect and lasts forever. His words and his mercy are not swayed by circumstances, emotion, or doubt. God is God, there is no other.
This verse comes at the end of a long, poetic description of David’s life and that of his son, Solomon. Solomon, too, was chosen by God, precisely for his wisdom. His kingship began with grace and God’s care. It was tranquil, so much so that Solomon was able to build the first great Temple in Jerusalem in honor of the Lord. He was rich in wisdom in his youth. He was full of understanding. As Ben Sira says of him, “Your spirit filled the earth, and you were full of puzzling proverbs. Your name reached faraway islands, and you were dearly loved because of your peaceful rule” (verses 14-16). Solomon had everything going for him. The Lord’s generosity and protection and his many graces toward Solomon made him well beloved. But Solomon fell away from the Lord. He fell away, not from some great sin of monstrously evil proportions, but because of the weakness of his flesh. “You gave yourself to women, and you were subdued by your own body” (verse 19).
Herein lies the object lesson for all of us. God has been as generous to us as he was to Solomon. He has given us life. He remains with us, and desires to give us all of the graces we need to live well, that is, to live happy lives. He has shown us the way. He has provided his guidance to us, both in his commandments, and in the example of his Only Begotten Son, Jesus. He has shown us everything we need to be able to follow him, to find our way back home to him. He nurtures us with graces appropriate to our needs, without hesitation, out of his perfect love for us. All we have to do is remain faithful to him, honor his words and his mercy with our lives. But, Oh, how often we fail him. How often we become enamored with the things of this world, blinded by the glitter, tempted by the flesh, and lose sight of our God and benefactor. We get lost, “subdued” by our own flesh and earthly desires. We have to admit it. We are weak.
Here, again, let us listen to the Spirit inspired words in Sirach’s 47th chapter: “But the Lord will never abandon his mercy, and none of his words will perish.” Our Lord’s ancient promise to us was mercy. He fulfilled that ancient promise in Jesus Christ. It is complete. His word did not perish. It is alive! For when we realize the errors of our ways and turn back to God, his mercy remains true for us. He never took it away. It was, rather, that we wandered away from it. It did not abandon us, we abandoned it. But in turning away from our sins, in turning back to God, we find his mercy waiting for us. Just as the Prodigal Father rushed down the road at the sight of his returning prodigal son, so he rushes out to us when we turn back to him. His words, his mercy, his eternal love for us is never abandoned, never diminished. It never fails!
Lord, we are weak, yet we have faith in your great love and mercy toward us. Help us to see the temptations of the world for what they are, and give us the strength to avoid being subdued by them. Give us the courage to remain faithful to you as you are faithful to us. We pray these things in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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