YEAR A: HOMILY FOR VI SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (6TH SUNDAY) – 12TH FEBRUARY
HOMILY THEME: AN INVITATION TO RADICAL SPIRITUALITY
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
HOMILY: A young man and a lady went to the parish office to fill the Marriage Form in preparation for their wedding. Each of them was handed a form to fill and submit. One of the questions on the form is: “Are you going into this marriage out of your freewill?” The man raised his head and was wondering whether to say yes or no. The lady looked at him and ordered him to write yes. Will he write yes because he is under duress or out of his free will? Freewill is an essential requirement for marriage and for the vital decisions we make in life.
Chapter 15 of the Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) speaks about freewill which God gave to the human person to choose between “fire and water; life and death; good and evil.” There is a striking similarity between this passage and that of Deuteronomy 30:15 where the Israelites are offered the opportunity to choose life or death, good or evil. At a critical point in the history of Israel Joshua called them to exercise their freewill when he said to them: “But if you do not want to serve Yahweh, make known this very day whom you shall serve – whether they be the gods your fathers served in Mesopotamia or the gods of the Amorites who formerly occupied the land in which you now live (Joshua 24:15).
Some people wonder why God gave human beings the gift of freewill. They argue that God should have just programmed every human person like a robot to be a good person. C.S. Lewis in his book “Mere Christianity” gives a brilliant answer on why God gives freewill to human beings. Lewis says:
“God created things which had free will. That means creature, which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature, which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”
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The question of doing good or evil constantly confronts the human person and there are circumstances in which making the right choice is difficult. St. Paul expresses his frustration in his personal struggle between doing good and evil. He said: “I cannot understand what is happening to me…I can do what is right, but I am unable to do it. In fact, I do not do the good I want, but the evil I hate (Romans 7:15,18-19). Each person exercises freewill when he chooses to either co-operate with the law or violate the law.
Jesus knew so well that no human society can operate without laws and order and so he says: “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. The law is important because it guides good behavior and according to St. Paul: “I would not have known sin, had it been not through the law. I would not have been aware of greed if the law did not tell me: Do not covet…But the law itself if holy, just and good” (Romans 7:7,12). Before Jesus came to earth, the Jews were known for their distinctive religious laws – the Decalogue, also known as the Ten Commandments.
Jesus gives a fresh perspective of the law which says that the law must be based on love of God and neighbor and obedience to this law is no longer a mere fulfillment of religious obligation or an external display of piety but an action that springs from love. He spoke authoritatively with the following words: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors… but I say to you…” He addresses the passions and emotions that are at the root of sin. He knows well that secret thoughts come before wrong actions. The Latin maxim says: Acta exterior indicant interiora secreta – exterior actions are manifestations of interior secrets. Could this be why Jesus prescribes hard solution for getting rid of the seeds of evil that lie hidden in the human heart? He says: If your right eye causes you to sin tear it out and throw it away and If your right hand causes you, cut it off and throw it away. Do not interpret these words literally, but rather understand the underlying meaning.
In addition, he asks his followers to deal with the passion of lust which is the root of adultery; he further request that his followers address the problem of deep-seated anger in the heart, which is the root of violence and murder. He challenges his disciples to deal with the problem of dishonesty, which is the root of false oaths and promises. He says to them let your Yes be Yes and No be No. By so doing you are by making your word your bond. Jesus reinterprets the law in such a way that his listeners are challenged to tackle their moral problems from the roots in order to set themselves free from the moral issues that chain them.
The content of Chapter 5 of the Gospel of Matthew (Sermon on the Mount) is very rich as it contains some very radical ideas of Jesus. He invites his listeners to a radical spirituality. This chapter contains the beatitudes where Jesus challenges us to a change of attitude and to a radical spirituality. The radical spirituality he proclaims is “wisdom to those who are mature, not a wisdom of this age” (1 Corinthians 2:6).
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