Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Proverbs 16, 1-15

A human heart makes the plans, Yahweh gives the answer.

A person's own acts seem right to the doer, but Yahweh is the weigher of souls.

Commend what you do to Yahweh, and what you plan will be achieved.

Yahweh made everything for its own purpose, yes, even the wicked for the day of disaster.

Every arrogant heart is abhorrent to Yahweh: be sure this will not go unpunished.

By faithful love and constancy sin is expiated; by fear of Yahweh evil is avoided.

Let Yahweh be pleased with someone's way of life and he makes that person's very enemies into friends.

Better have little and with it uprightness than great revenues with injustice.

The human heart may plan a course, but it is Yahweh who makes the steps secure.

The lips of the king utter prophecies, he keeps faith when he speaks in judgement.

The balances and scales belong to Yahweh, all the weights in the bag are of his making.

Evil-doing is abhorrent to kings, since uprightness is a throne's foundation.

Upright lips are welcome to a king, he loves someone of honest words.

The king's wrath is the herald of death, but the wise will appease it.

When the king's face brightens it spells life, his favour is like the rain in spring.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

In a particular way, chapter 16 reflects a difference in tone from the one we have seen in Proverbs up until this point, for the Lord enters the scene as an absolute protagonist. If the "fear of the Lord is the school of wisdom" as the last chapter states, now God presents himself as the origin of wisdom and as the one who rules the universe and guides the life of humanity. In the middle of his book, the author, having brought together proverbs and reflections of various origins, now wants to affirm more explicitly that everything depends on God and that he is the source of wisdom. This is why for humanity the fear of God is the absolute beginning of every kind of wisdom and knowledge because everything comes from him. This does not devalue or discount what has been said in preceding passages and even less that humanity is responsible for seeking out science and knowledge. At the beginning, the author effectively expresses the contrast: "The plans of the mind belong to mortals, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. All the ways may be pure in one’s own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit" (v. 1-2). Humans can plan, and all that they do may seem good to them, but the actual outcome and the judgement are in the Lord’s hands. Without him nothing reaches its fulfilment. "The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps" (v. 9). This is why we should entrust what we do to the Lord since through him our work will end well, because the Lord is the one who "has made everything for its purpose." Here we should grasp the reference to pride. The heart that is full of arrogance thinks that everything depends on it and acts as if God did not exist. It considers itself its own master and also that of the universe, even of life and of death. This passage is a warning to each one of us, contemporary men and women, when we sometimes look for the definitive scientific discoveries to affirm our own power over everything and decisions on life and death. Think of the field of bioethics, for example, where we are called to reconcile science to life in its diverse stages from conception to death. It is not by chance that after the first verses, a dedication to the king follows. The king was the absolute lord and the one to whom was entrusted governance and the administration of justice. The king was the one who could decide on the life or death of his subjects. Here we see the author’s praise for kings, as they represent the Lord on Earth, yet their judgment and rule are not absolute. Even the king is subject to divine justice, "Honest balances and scales are the Lord’s; all the weights in the bag are his work." Scales, balances and weights in the bag signify all that is consistent with establishing justice. The king does not have absolute power, for his work is subject to divine justice.