Give new signs and work new wonders. (Sirach 36:6)
In the first reading at Holy Mass today, we read Jesus ben-Sirach’s prayer for the re-unification of Israel. The wise man prays that God will intervene in history again to show the whole world that He is Lord, by restoring the divine kingdom of His chosen nation.
The wise teacher of this book has already outlined all the principles of an upright life. He has recounted the mighty works of God in creation and in the Covenant. And Jesus ben-Sirach has explained how living right—humbly submitting to God’s laws—that this offers the perfect religious sacrifice to God.
But that’s not all the wise man has to say. It’s not just all morals and piety. Actually morals and piety are just the beginning. Once we are moral and pious, then we must turn to God and humbly beg Him to bring it all to fulfillment by filling the heavens and the earth with His ineffable glory.
Now, of course, the Lord answered Jesus ben-Sirach’s prayer. He answered the prayers of all the ancient prophets. By sending the Messiah. The prophets knew that the wonders which God worked in Egypt, at the Red Sea, at Mount Sinai, and in the battles for control of the Holy Land in the days of Joshua—the prophets of old knew that all this was just the beginning. The Lord’s coup de grâce for His enemies was yet to come.
And God proved the prophets right. He came in the flesh, born of the Virgin. He conquered sin and death. He extended the covenant to include all the nations of the earth. He filled His Church with grace so that She could equip God’s children for eternal life.
But, in fact, the works of God still are not over. The prayer of Jesus ben-Sirach constitutes part of the solemn, official prayer of Christ’s Church, chanted day in and day out by nuns and monks and priests. We still pray that God will give new signs and work new wonders, to show the world His glory and to unite all His scattered children.
Let’s never give up praying for God to intervene anew in history for the sake of our salvation. In fact, let’s make that prayer a priority. It’s not that He hasn’t done everything already by sending His Christ. He has done everything. But He can still make it all wonderful again, in a new way, by the unfolding of the surprising designs He has stored up in His infinite wisdom.
Exercise is good; doing an honest day’s work is good; getting a good night’s sleep is good; reading a good book; following the Nats or the Orioles. Perfectly good ways to spend time.
But let’s put humbly praying for God to give new signs and work new wonders at the top of our daily list of priorities.