HOMILY OF THE 5th WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A
Theme: FREE AND FAITHFUL
Fr. Gerald M. Musa
Free and faithful in Christ is the title of a famous book by a renowned Theologian, Bernard Haring. I find this title very good because it summarises the nature of our vocation. God calls each one of us and expects us to exercise freedom in responding or rejecting his call. The most important freedom that God has given to us is the freedom of choice. The book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) expresses this God-given freedom thus:
He has set before you fire and water
to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.
Before man are life and death, good and evil,
whichever he chooses shall be given him (cf. 15:15-20).
We all love to enjoy our freedom and most often we do not want anyone to interfere with our freedom. Sometimes we exercise our freedom responsibly and at other times we want to go wild and wicked in the name of freedom.
Just imagine the argument between a Father and his son:
During a generation gap argument with his parents, young Michael told his parents, “I want freedom, excitement, adventure, and beautiful women, and I can’t find all that living here. I’m leaving. Don’t try to stop me. “With that he heads for the door. His father was right behind him.
“Didn’t you hear me? Don’t try to stop me! “Who’s trying to stop you?” his father replies. “I’m going too.”
You can imagine what happens if the son disappears to exercise his freedom and if the father does same and if the Mother goes away to exercise her freedom, then no member of the family will be left and each one ends up as a loose cannon in the community. In fact, when freedom is exercised responsibly, the whole community is safeguarded from a lot of excesses and evil. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel of Luke where a young man asked his father to give him a share of his wealth. Having received a large sum of money, the son went out to exercise his freedom. He exercised his freedom irresponsibly and squandered everything he received from his father and his life turned into misery until he returned to apologise to his father, who accepted him back. In every facet of life, we are called to exercise freedom responsibly.
Some years ago, I went to the Gabba stadium in Brisbane, Australia to watch a Cricket Match and I noticed one of the bold advertisements on the wall warning Gamblers to exercise their freedom wisely. The warning read: ‘Don’t be a Galah, set a limit, and stick to it.’ Galah is a famous bird in Australia, it is also known as the rose-breasted cockatoo. In Australian slang the word Galah is used in a derogatory way to refer to a foolish, noisy person or an idiot. Therefore, someone who exercises freedom without restraint, or who behaves foolishly is called a Galah.
Rules, regulations and manuals often guide us. Whenever we buy a new product, an equipment or electronic or an automobile one of the important things given to us is an instruction manual. Instruction manuals guide us on how to operate the equipment, how best to enjoy the equipment, as well as some of the extra features that are fitted in the equipment. Following the manual helps us to maximise the benefits of the equipment and the right usage and maintenance of the equipment helps to guarantee the durability. In a similar way, Divine laws are designed to serve as instruction manuals for us who are in the journey of life. They are the road maps that lead us to our desired destination to heaven. They are derived from the wisdom of God and they are prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:6-10).
The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel had announced to the people of Israel about the coming days in which the Lord will re-define his relationship with his people. He said: This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people (Jeremiah 31:33). Writing the laws in their hearts could be interpreted that people would love to respect God’s laws no longer out of fear but out of a very deep and passionate love that springs from the heart. It is for this reason that Jesus challenged let their virtue be deeper than that of the Pharisees who were merely concerned about the letter of the law without giving attention to the spirit of the law.
To those who thought that Jesus came to abolish all the past laws, Jesus said to them: I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it. The New Testament builds on the foundation of the Old Testament. However, Jesus teaches us a new way of looking at the laws of God when he preached his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) and when he summarises the Ten Commandments into love of God and love of neighbour. Jesus picks on the following:
Divorce: Marriage not just an ordinary contract but a permanent covenant with each other.
Worship: Seek not only for God’s mercy but also for the forgiveness of your brothers/sisters.
Murder: Watch your anger; do not slander; avoid defamation of character; stop spreading evil rumours.
Adultery: Faithfulness is the best way of life, even when we are living in a world inundated by images that provoke our lower instincts; betrayal starts with a little act, but honesty is the best policy in relationship.
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s philosophical novels The Brothers Karamazov, makes us reflect on the consequences of living without God and without divine laws. In the book we understand that if there is no God -then everything is permitted. Therefore, Psalm I19:1 says “Blessed are those who follow the law of the Lord.” The challenge before us in this age of moral crisis is how to be free and yet faithful in our relationship with God.
6th Sunday of the Year A; Sirach 15:15-20; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37