Wednesday, July 22, 2015


"St. Sharbel Makhluf"
Artist and Date not cited.


Biographical Information About St. Sharbel Makhluf [1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf

Readings and Commentary: [2]
Sirach 3:17-25
My child, conduct your affairs with humility,
and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.
Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God.
The greater you are,
the more you must humble yourself in all things,
and you will find grace before God.
For great is the power of God;
by the humble he is glorified.
What is too sublime for you, seek not,
into things beyond your strength search not.
What is committed to you, attend to;
for it is not necessary for you to see with your eyes
those things which are hidden.
With what is too much for you meddle not,
when shown things beyond human understanding.
Their own opinion has misled many,
and false reasoning unbalanced their judgment.
Where the pupil of the eye is missing, there is no light,
and where there is no knowledge, there is no wisdom.
Commentary on Sir 3:17-26

Jesus, son of Eleazar, son of Sirach, the author of this book provides a list of “Wisdom Sayings”. The haughty attitude of unworthy children gives the author a vehicle to extol the virtue of humility. He points these exhortations specifically at Hellenistic philosophers (“What is too sublime for you, seek not…”) who attempt to bring God to the level of mankind, reproaching them for trying to apply human logic to things of faith.

R. (1) The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord.

He who walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.
R. The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord.

Who harms not his fellow man,
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
By whom the reprobate is despised,
while he honors those who fear the Lord.
R. The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord.

Who lends not his money at usury
and accepts no bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
shall never be disturbed.
R. The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord.
Commentary on Ps 15:2-3a, 3bc-4ab, 5

Psalm 15 is a Jewish form of examination of conscience. In this selection the poem asks first about lying, then committing violence against his neighbor, and finally about usury, making money by lending to the poor instead of helping without charge as Mosaic Law demands.

This selection records the response of the Temple representative when asked what virtues are appropriate in the eyes of God.  The response lauds the person who follows the “Law”, specifically the Hebrew laws that warn against slander or false accusations. In the second strophe it honors the person who does no violence against another. And finally, in the last strophe, we are told that the person who does not charge interest on a loan (usury) is also uplifted.


Peter said to Jesus,
"We have given up everything and followed you.
What will there be for us?"
Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you
that you who have followed me, in the new age,
when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory,
will yourselves sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or children or lands
for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more,
and will inherit eternal life."
Commentary on Mt 19:27-29

St. Matthew’s Gospel continues the focus on valuing the spiritual life above the material pursuits of earthly existence. The disciples were dismayed at the aestheticism required by the discipline and sacrifice required by Christ. In response to Peter’s expression of this concern, Jesus, in an eschatological discourse, provides a vision of the heavenly kingdom in which those who have faithfully followed the Lord will receive an inestimable reward.

CCC: Mt 19:23-29 2053; Mt 19:23-24 226; Mt 19:26 276, 308, 1058; Mt 19:28 765

On this feast of St. Sharbel Makhluf, sacred scripture focuses us on one of the more difficult principles of living a life in Christ, humility and self-denial.  In the first reading from Sirach, the virtue of humility before the Lord is emphasized.  We must constantly ask ourselves: how can we be prideful when all we accomplish that is good comes from our Heavenly Father?  It is he who gave us life and the gifts we use in our daily lives.  When we successfully accomplish a positive result, it is for God’s greater glory, not our own, for it is by his will and effort it was done.

The Gospel from St. Matthew provides the corresponding Christian virtue of self-denial.  Jesus is speaking to his disciples (and to us).  They have complained that they have given up the pursuit of physical wealth and comfort to follow him.  They have sacrificed position and family so they could learn at his feet.  In all of us who serve God, there are times when those feelings of self-pity creep in.  “If I had put all my energy into climbing the ladder of success instead of volunteering some much of my time to the Church or to some charitable cause, I could have been more successful in the eyes of my secular peers.” 

This is the same argument we see (and Jesus saw) in the disciples. And what does the Lord say in response?  “…And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life."

We are called once more to focus on our spiritual wealth, wealth that cannot be destroyed, rather than our physical comfort and monetary success.

It is the rare individual who can take these principles and apply them to their lives to the degree that St. Sharbel Makhluf did.  His contemplative and acetic life-style provided him with wisdom to accomplish the Lord’s will, and he brought many to more perfect faith.  We pray today for his intercession.  May he ask the Lord to banish pride from our hearts and remind us that all we do is for the greater glory of our Heavenly Father.
[1] The picture used is "St. Sharbel Makhluf", Artist and Date not cited.
[2] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.

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