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February 13: Sixth Sunday Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Sir 15:15-20; I Cor. 2:6-10; Mt. 5:17-37
This Sunday, as we continue to reflect on the Sermon on the Mountain from the Gospel of Matthew, the readings invite us to make wise choices. Today’s First Reading from the Book of Sirach uses the word “choice” three times, and once the phrase “the wisdom of the Lord.” The opening verse of the passage says, “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you.” The point seems to be that the wisdom of the Lord calls us to choose life, reminding us that life and death are set before us. The choice therefore is up to us. God gives us both freedom and responsibility. The wise choose life, not death; they choose love, peace and forgiveness not hate. On the eve of Valentine’s Day, that choice is before us: choosing to love wisely. Paul in the second reading describes this choice in terms of either human wisdom or God’s wisdom. If we choose God’s wisdom, we will listen to Jesus who gives us the blueprint of what it means to live a life of the kingdom. That blueprint is the new law that not abolish the old, but brings it to completion.
In the Gospel, Jesus addresses three tough moral issues: murder, marital relations and taking oaths. Jesus first deals with the issue of murder, and calls us to choose to be persons of peace and compassion or to be persons of violence. We are told that murder is like an eruption of a volcano that begins with anger in the heart. Violence begins within a person who is hurting. To be a person of peace and compassion means being a person of forgiveness. Unless one forgives, anger continues to build up until it erupts. It may take years or months, but some day it will blow up, burning anyone near that person. That is why it is so important to fight every tendency that results in murder, namely our anger, our hatred, our grudges, our hurts of the past. Hatred, anger, and grudges destroy the life of Christ within us. We cannot be fully alive if we treasure our hatred more than we treasure the Love of God, Jesus Christ. We have to teach our children that there is never room for hatred in the world. They may be very upset with a teacher, a playmate or a family member, but we must never allow being upset to turn into hatred. If we do that, we destroy ourselves and our ability to live genuine lives, the life of Jesus within us. We cannot love God and hate another person at the same time. We must make peace first if our worship is to be genuine and acceptable by God. The choice is to be part of a community of forgiveness. When we make the choice to forgive, we already live a life of the kingdom. The second issues that Jesus addresses is the new law of marital relations. He calls to make a choice to live married relationship in fidelity. When we choose to do that we live a radical way of the kingdom, setting an example for others. It is not simply a matter of not committing adultery but of honouring our own commitments and those of others. That choice starts in the heart. For Jesus, marriage was part of God’s plan, reflecting God’s fidelity to the chosen people. Married relationship is therefore a place of safety, nurture and honor; not a place of violence, dishonesty and destructiveness. By forbidding divorce, Jesus is mainly calling for a reconciled relationship between husband and wife, instead of living in a situation of sub-marine warfare. Finally Jesus deals with the issue of making oaths and calling on God to stand by one’s word. Here Jesus teaches that there should be no need for making oaths, because his followers should be speakers of truth all the time. The mark of those who live in the new law based on God’s wisdom is truthfulness, speaking the truth in love. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The readings call us to have a heart that is forgiving, faithful and truthful at all times; 2) The readings invite us to choose God’s wisdom that may appear to the world to be foolishness. When we choose God’s wisdom, we find God’s life, salvation. 3) When Jesus uses the words, “You have heard.... but I say to you...He calls us to a radical way of living that may surprise many, but indeed that brings about forgiveness, faithfulness and truthfulness. That is the kingdom Jesus proclaims and has already begun in our choosing wisely to embrace its values. The choice is yours.
©2011 John S. Mbinda