Preparing for Confession: Wisdom of Sirach 5

Some parish member ask about what they might read and meditate on in preparation for Confession.  While while certainly can look at lists of sins such as in Mark 7:21-23 or Galatians 5:19-24, one can also look in the Wisdom literature of Scripture.  Certainly foolishness is a sin in the wisdom literature.  Below is a chapter from the Wisdom of Sirach, which is worth contemplating as we examine our own lives and consciences as to what we do and why we do it.   Meditating on wisdom literature in preparation for confession is very different than studying the commandments of God. (And it is interesting to note that through the weekdays of Great Lent the Church’s Scripture Lessons are from Proverbs and Genesis, not Leviticus and Deuteronomy).  Reading wisdom literature requires much more contemplation and the use of the heart and the mind.  The difference I’ve pointed out before is like driving in a car and coming to a STOP sign.  STOP is the law.  It commands you what to do at that moment.  But that sign can never tell you when to GO.  Knowing when to go requires wisdom.  You have to look in all directions and you still cannot assume that you can go just because you have the right-of-way.  You have to vigilantly observe what the other drivers are doing or even guess what they might do.  This is wisdom, something we see in the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ in His parables and in His Sermon on the Mount.

Wisdom of Sirach 5

Do not set your heart on your possessions, and do not say, “I am independent.”

Do not follow yourself and your strength so as to walk in the desires of your heart;   And do not say, “Who will be lord over me?” For the Lord will surely punish you.

Do not say, “I sinned, so what happened to me?” For the Lord is patient.

Do not be so confident of atonement that you add sin to sin;  And do not say, “His compassion is great; He will atone for the multitude of my sins,” For both mercy and wrath come from Him; And His anger rests on sinners.

Do not delay to turn to the Lord, and do not put it off from day to day; For suddenly the wrath of the Lord will come forth, and in the day of vengeance, you will perish.

Do not set your heart on dishonest wealth, for it will profit you nothing in the day of distress.

Do not winnow with every wind and do not follow every road; For a double-tongued sinner is of such a kind.

Be established in your understanding and let your word be consistent.

Be quick to listen and give your answer with patience.

If you have understanding, answer your neighbor, but if not, let your hand be over your mouth.

There is glory and dishonor in speech, and a man’s tongue may cause him to fall.

Do not be called a slanderer, and do not lie in ambush with your tongue; For shame awaits a thief, and a grievous condemnation will come upon a double-tongued man.

In a great or in a small matter, do not go wrong.