Deacon Homily Hot Sheet 211
Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2/16/14 (Lourdes)
Deacon Thomas Winninger, CSMA
Sir. 15:15-20, Ps. 119, 1 Cor. 2:6-10, Matt. 5:17-37

To whichever you choose…before you are life and death, good and evil.

            Which door do you pick? Door one or door two? You have free will, God gave us free will to choose to love him or not love him. He said, you choose, I made you to love me, that is, I will give you the desire to love me but I will not make you love me. Well I don’t know which door to pick. What are the consequences of picking door one or door two? As your deacon I am not the one to tell you which door to choose? Just like God I will not make you choose and I will not judge you for your choices.

            Today is the Sunday for coming to terms with free will, the freedom to choose life or death, good or evil, fire or water, love or hate, forgiveness or judgment? It is not hard you say, but then why do we often choose wrongly. God gave us the capacity to choose rightly. He gave us grace for the strength to choose rightly. He gave us the precepts to lead us in right paths. He gave us the community of believers to support our right decisions. He gave us the sacraments, the scriptures, his Word, to open us to wisdom to choose rightly. Yet on any given day we fall short of holiness, we fall short of the virtues, we fall short of his call to choose rightly. I will never forget my mother saying, “Seek to choose wisely for choices surprisingly will come true and the results might not have the consequences that you had wished for.” 

            In the first reading, Sirach, in the Old Testament, makes one of the clearest statements about human free will. We have complete freedom to choose between good and evil, fire and water. He clearly states the only way is by loving God, and following the commandments; this leads to a life of peace, and prosperity in the long run, the eternal run. While the other way leads to death, despair, meaningless existence.

            Psalm 119, the longest of the psalms (22 sections of 8 verses) blesses those who choose rightly for “Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord…who seek him with all their heart.” That is the path of the Lord.

            Paul in his letter to the Corinthians states that the wise person chooses the path to the cross, not the path to the resurrection. Paul says that the path to the cross is the path to resurrection. We must all die to rise; we must fall down to get up. Falling down is human, it is the way of our nature; getting up is divine. He told the Corinthians that it was not the resurrection that saved us from sin. Jesus died to save us; he did not rise to save us. His resurrection only confirmed his divinity. It is impossible to avoid challenges, frustrations, and suffering in our lives. We were not born to be wealthy, successful and happy. We were born to love, give, and forgive in the joy of our faith. Paul encourages us to choose to offer up the things in our lives that do not work, that are painful, that challenge us, for in doing so we benefit from the strength of grace and find joy in life. 

            In the gospel of Matthew we hear the Sermon on the Mount. “I came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. ” Jesus calls us to choose to fulfill the commandment but not in the old way. Jesus introduces a new formula, he said, “thou shall not, but I say…” It says, “You shall not kill,” but “I say, whoever is angry shall be judged. Whoever does not love shall be judged.” Jesus calls us to move to what we should do, rather than dwell on what we should not do. For example, it is not about killing, it is all about respecting life. It is not about coveting your neighbor’s goods; it is all about being less dependent on material things. You see, better to choose what to do rather than what not to do. It is about choosing the door of virtue or the door of temptation.

            So, what are we called to do as a result of these readings? First, we are called to consider more deeply our choices and their consequences. They call us to choose rightly with wisdom. Solomon, one of the wisest of the Old Testament leaders, discovered that the more he followed his heart the more he loved, and the more that he loved the better choices he made. WOW what a revelation? Love and you will make better choices. Love without judgment and you will be wiser. 

            Second, choose to become one with your challenges. How many of us pray that we live an easy life without pain and loss? Sure we have all prayed that way. OK, one of you has not, but the rest of us have human natures. But how real is it to be free of pain and challenges? Jesus went to the cross to show us that the cross is the way to eternal life. This is a hard message for human nature to get its arms around. But the hope is in seeking joy no matter what happens rather than seeking the easy life.

            Third, choose to live in virtue, rather than temptation. For the more our life is full of loving, giving and forgiving the wiser we will be in making choices.

To whichever you choose…before you are life and death, good and evil…joy and peace.