Memory of the Church

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Proverbs 16, 16-33

Better gain wisdom than gold, choose understanding in preference to silver.

To turn from evil is the way of the honest; whoever watches the path keeps life safe.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Better be humble with the poor than share the booty with the proud.

Whoever listens closely to the word finds happiness; whoever trusts Yahweh is blessed.

The wise of heart is acclaimed as intelligent, sweetness of speech increases knowledge.

Shrewdness is a fountain of life for its possessor, the folly of fools is their own punishment.

The heart of the wise lends shrewdness to speech and makes words more persuasive.

Kindly words are a honeycomb, sweet to the taste, wholesome to the body.

There is a way that some think straight, but it leads in the end to death.

A worker's appetite works on his behalf, for his hunger urges him on.

A worthless person concocts evil, such a one's talk is like a scorching fire.

A troublemaker sows strife, a slanderer divides friend from friend.

The violent lures his neighbour astray and leads him by a way that is not good.

Whoever narrows the eyes to think up tricks and purses the lips has already done wrong.

White hairs are a crown of honour, they are found in the ways of uprightness.

Better an equable person than a hero, someone with self-mastery than one who takes a city.

In the fold of the garment the lot is thrown, but from Yahweh comes the decision.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

In this passage of chapter 16, we see a few aspects of the life of a wise man that we have already found elsewhere. Furthermore, we know very well that we need to hear the Word of God repeated so that it may penetrate our hearts instead of remaining on the surface, and so that we do not forget it, caught up as we are by our own selves, or overwhelmed by the many words we hear every day. Once again, this passage reminds us of the dangers of living with pride and arrogance as they lead to ruin: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." This is why we must be humble with the poor, because pride distances us from them and leads us to scorn them. The author in this chapter is very careful about language, as he is in chapter 15. He must have been living in a contentious and callow society in which words were not nourished by wisdom. Ignorance often leads us to speak in an arrogant and disrespectful way which leads to division and continuous quarrelling. Our society does not seem all that much better than the one in which the author, who had collected proverbs from its long history, lived. He underlines the importance of "pleasant speech" (v. 21) that improves knowledge and likens it to the sweetness of honey or to a medicine that heals: "Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." We know well how much a kind word can do good especially for those in need and can truly be like a healing medicine. Too many sharp, cutting words are spoken; words that cannot console but rather only injure, intimidate and silence others. The Word of God teaches us another "alphabet", one of kindness and respect, of love and consolation. Correction and rebuke join it, as we have seen many other times in this book. For a loving person knows how to correct any wrong by using the right tone, one that helps rather than condemns. Every day there is too much pride in our lives and we yield to it too easily. Sometimes we are frightened of opposing it, as if it were a law of our society, "A perverse person spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends." There is a spreading ill will that only provokes division and quarrels. The wise one is called to oppose it through words, kindness, patience and self-control: "One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city" (v. 32). We find strength in patient love and self-control, which is more valuable than the force of an army.