6TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A
By: Rev. Fr. AMEH Sylvanus
Readings: Sirach 15:15-20; Psalm 119; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37
Theme: Freedom and Responsibility
At creation, God gave man freewill; man was imbued with the ability to choose. This freedom however, comes with certain responsibilities. God told Adam and Eve, concerning the one thing he gave them, and by extension, all humanity, a choice, that they may freely eat of every tree in the Garden of Eden except one. However, they are still free to eat of it, but under pain of death (Gen 2:16-17), implying that they will be responsible for the outcome of their free choice. So, with freedom and freewill comes responsibility, and every free action has a consequence, whether good or bad, and this is what the First Reading reminds us of.
The creation story tells us that when God created everything, including man, he saw that they were very good (Gen 1:31). We then ask the question: “how then are there bad people?” God created goodness, but as we have shown above, he did not compel it on human beings. They are free not to do the good, but they will be responsible for the outcome. So, evil therefore, is simply the absence of good. This is because we are only responsible for what we freely and willfully decide to do. For instance, a marriage, by both civil and ecclesiastical laws, contracted under any form of coercion is ipso facto, invalid, null and void. Hence, being intrinsically a good person or a bad person is a consequence of the little choices we make everyday. And so, in the First Reading, Ben Sirach says “If you WILL, you CAN keep the commandments (free act, and they will save you (consequence).”
Sirach uses water and fire to represent good and evil, life and death respectively, and he repeats what those before him have said before. Moses once told the people of Israel, “I place before you, life and death, blessings and curses, choose life (free act) so that you and your descendants may live (consequence) (Deut 30:19) and Joshua in his days, told the same community of Israel, “Choose today, whom you will serve” (Josh 24:15). All these points us to the fact that obeying and keeping God’s commandments is a thing of choice and by implication, whether a person goes to heaven or hell is also a thing of choice. However, it is God’s desire that we choose good, obey Him, and live.
In the gospel reading, Jesus tells us that we also have the freedom to remove the causes of sin far from us. He says if your eyes will cause you to sin, if your hand or your leg will cause you to sin, pluck them out and cast them off. The eye is the seat of desire.Most of the sins people commit are to satisfy the desires of the flesh. Greed, avarice, lust, fornication, adultery, masturbation, gluttony, and many others are all driven by the desires of the flesh, arising from what the eyes have seen and the mind has craved. The hand is symbolic for relationships. There are certain relationships that do you no good whatsoever, whether temporal or spiritual. Many people are on the path to hell today because of the kind of relationships they keep. It could be with friends, colleagues or even family members. Jesus says they are not worth losing your soul for. And the leg is symbolic for activities. Some activities are hindrances to our salvation; some are barriers to having healthy relationships; some are home breakers. Any form of activity that will prevent you from doing what is right, Jesus says, is not worth it, even if it is your work or business. And Jesus prescribes a radical, difficult, painful but very effective remedy: he says, leave such things; cut them off; surgically remove them from your life as cancerous cells are removed from the body. All these too, are choices that we must have to make from time to time, and whether we choose to cut them off or let them stay is something that we have the freedom to do, but we must be responsible for whatever the outcome may be.
So today, dear child of God, the big question before us all is: what fundamental choice will you make? Will you choose for God or against God? As for me, myself and I, we have chosen to serve the Lord and there is no turning back. May the Lord Jesus help us to daily make the right choices. Amen.