“ Before man are life and death, good and evil,
whichever he chooses shall be given him”
From Sunday’s First Reading, Sirach 15: 15-20
One of the basic principles of theology is that God has given us free will to choose right from wrong. From this reality ensues some persons doing horrific acts of evil and destruction because they can and others
accomplishing incredible acts of heroism and love also because they can. In Genesis, Adam blames Eve who blames the serpent for leading them into sin, and their own bad choices! In the First Reading from Sirach, we are told if we follow God’s commandments we will be choosing life and goodness. In verse 20 we hear “No one does he command to act unjustly, to none does he give license to sin.” In other words, we are fully accountable for our actions, both good and evil.
In today’s lengthy Gospel from Mathew 5:17-37 from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus seeks to undercover what leads us to break God’s commandments. So we are challenged to avoid anger since it can lead to division and even murder, lust since it can lead to adultery, and swearing since it may lead to making false oaths. We are given high ideals to follow—transparency in our interactions towards others by letting our ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ and ‘no’ means ‘no’ and fidelity to one’s vows of marriage. The gospel even uses hyperbole to motivate us to choose truth and life by telling us to cut off anything, even parts of our body, that may lead us to sin. May we join in the intention of prayer of the psalmist in Psalm 119 who in verses 33 and 34 prays “ Instruct me, O Lord, in the way of your statutes, that I may exactly observe them. Give me discernment, that I may observe your law and keep it with all my heart.”