When I was a teenager, I once had a very sad day. I was a young man burning with an overwhelming zeal for sanctity. Sitting at the edge of my bed, my eyes brimmed with tears. “God, can you do this for me?” I sobbed. All I wanted was to be able to choose to be holy once and for all. I was tired of making choices everyday and therefore offending God with my wrong choices. I felt if God could take away my freewill and make me permanently perfect, I would be happy again. But that was not to happen! After some days I saw over the news, a boy of my age had cut off his genitalia, so that he would end his own temptations once and for all, but instead he ended his life! It then dawned on me that little boys like me all over the world were caught in the same dilemma of choices.
The modern world is en-shackled by her unbridled desire for freedom. Every other day, there is an increasing demand for obliteration of divine positive laws for human freedom. However, freewill is God’s free gift to every human which must be used with wisdom. Wrong exercise of one’s ability to make choices brings anarchy. A good man chooses what is good while an evil man chooses evil.
“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” (Sir. 15:16-17). In these choices one can easily identify the parallels. Even though the arrangement appears inconsistent, it is obvious that fire, death and evil are on one side while water, life and good are on the other. The wise and righteous man chooses to obey the Law while the foolish and unrighteous contravenes it. The Psalmist seeks the beauty of the Law and recounts the many countless blessings for those who keep it. Thus for the Jews, there is a great relationship between observance of God’s Law and Wisdom. Since the Law of God flows from divine and eternal Wisdom, those who keep it prove themselves wise.
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Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians speaks of this Wisdom. It is divine, mysterious and hidden, unknown to the rulers of this world, but revealed to those who love God. (2:6-10) According to Paul, this lack of Wisdom on the part of the rulers of this world is responsible for their crucifixion of the Lord of glory. As did the rulers of Jesus’ time, rulers of the present generation have never stopped crucifying truth and justice on the altar of selfishness. They overthrow the laws of God and enshrine the laws of men. Hence, abortion, same sex unions and all manners of moral atrocities have been legalized while little heed is paid to divine positives laws. But for those who love God, eyes have not seen, nor ears heard, neither has it been conceived in the human mind what reward God has for them.
In the gospel of Matt 5:17-37, Jesus validates the Laws of old. His coming was not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. However, Jesus takes the Jews beyond the letters of the law to the spirit of the law. He condemns not just external contravention of the law, but also harboring of evil in the heart.
Hence, two issues call for attention from this piece. One is the problem of choice, while the other is the true demand of the Law, not just living the letters of the law but meeting up with the spiritual demands of God’s Law.
Just like my childhood dilemma, many Christians today have a virtual disposition to do good. They conceive the biddings of Divine Wisdom, but are too weak to discipline their choices. The teachings of Jesus in the gospel is not to discourage but to encourage a deep rooted disposition for righteous living. The final demand of Jesus in that long sermon is the call for perfection, “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
However, just as the Psalmist in Psalm 111 relies on Yahweh for the light of Wisdom, the new man must rely on God’s grace to always choose what is good.
It is not very easy to make the right choices but it is possible. May the grace of God accompany us now and always to choose good against evil, through Christ our Lord, amen.