February 12, 2017—Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1: Sir 15:15-20
Responsorial: Ps 119: 1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34
Reading 2: 1 Cor 2:6-10
Gospel: Mt 5:17-37
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how many choices we have to make every day. The internet says that adults make over 35,000 decisions every day. Even you kids make about 3,000 every day! (well, Nicholas does. Probably not you twins, yet.) Man! But, it’s true. Choices are everywhere in my life:
Wake up early or snooze until the babies cry? (I wish snoozing were an option.)
Frosted Mini Wheats or oatmeal? (Really? Frosting wins.)
Curious George or Sesame Street? (Nicholas chose George.)
Clean the kitchen or watch TV? (The kitchen lost this one.)
Hang out with babies or organize the closets? (I chose you, so still a messy closet.)
Decaf or regular? (Decaf. Just for you, twins.)
Eat the last cookie or save it for Dad? (I ate it. Shh. Don’t tell…)
And, in your lives, those moments of discerning the right choice will likely be some of the most difficult times you experience. It’s challenging to make those big decisions, especially when you feel like it will impact your life and others. So, thankfully–today’s readings give us some insight into how to make a decision well.
See, the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom–the ability to discern what is good and what is not. And then it’s our job to use it. St. Paul talks about how the leaders of his time didn’t quite understand God’s wisdom. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most of our leaders don’t either. But, you and I have the opportunity to listen to what God says to us about our choices and use his gift of wisdom.
The book of Sirach has a killer line: “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.” And this is the crux of the whole decision-making process, kids. In a few years from now, I’ll be convinced that you really do know the difference between good and bad. As adults, your dad and I really know (most of the time) what is right and what is wrong. And then we choose. We choose to seek life and good things and what brings hope and light into the world. Or, we choose to be selfish or hurtful and we close ourselves off from God. At the end of the day, that’s what it all boils down to.
People will try to tell you that God imposes his will on us all. They might try to convince you that God decides all of this for us. But, the reality is that we have been given the power of choice, more power than we take credit for. Every day, we have 35,000 opportunities to choose good over evil. Sometimes it’s in a little way (like leaving your dad that cookie). Sometimes, it’s a big choice (like sacrificing personal comfort for the good of another person). But, WE have that choice. That’s free will.
The beauty of free will is that we have the ability to do great things in this world and really be active in our acceptance of God’s incredible plan for us. But, the bad thing is that there really are no excuses when we mess up.
Jesus calls out people in the gospels today for being full of excuses. They are following all the commandments…but, just barely. And that’s not quite what God had in mind when he gave the Ten Commandments to us. He wanted us to embrace the goodness behind the law and to take care of each other, not to find loopholes to still do the bad stuff.
So, Jesus tells them that instead of just not being a murderer—we need to reconcile ourselves with our family and friends before we come to God. And, instead of just not physically committing adultery–we need to be faithful and loving in our marriages with our whole heart, mind, and body. And we can’t just avoid lying—but, we need to mean what we say and stay true to our word.
As Christians, we aren’t called to do the bare minimum. We’re called to live boldly and love wholeheartedly. That’s what our choices need to reflect.
We need to mean what we say. So, if we’re talking all about how much we love our family, your dad and I had better show you guys how much we love you in the way we spend our time and energy. If we believe that it’s important to take care of those who are “the least of these,” then we had better figure out a way to donate to the poor and treat them with dignity. If we are so supportive of women choosing to have their babies (even when it’s difficult), then we had better help support them and their children long after that sweet baby is born.
The reality is this: our world is full of people making really nonsensical choices. You are called to do something different. You are called to choose from what is before you: life or death, good or evil, right or wrong. The world will tell you that “right” and “wrong” don’t exist. They’ll say that it’s impossible to know what’s really right or wrong.
But, in your gut…you know. So, my advice to you: trust your gut. That’s the Holy Spirit giving you that wisdom that you need in that moment. Pray and think and trust that God is leading you. Then, choose. Choose what brings life to the world. Choose what is good. My hope is that those choices will be the way this world begins to get a little brighter.
I love you!