6th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)
February 13, 2011

Recent events all over the world just cannot but get us thinking. They confront us with the power of choice, and the consequences of the choices that we make. Even as I write, the whole world waits with bated breath at what choices the President of Egypt would do. But more than that, the whole world, too, cannot wait till it sees what further far-ranging consequences would ensue once he takes that expected, but at the same time, dreaded, step down from power.

We have seen similar scenarios before. We still see scenarios where the choice boils down to deciding for good or for evil; for life or for death. No less than Sirach confronts us with the inevitability of choice, and the ineluctable consequences that spring from our choices. “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.”

I have seen first hand the power of personal choices. I have had a number of very intelligent peers, classmates, and neighbors. We grew up together. We studied together. We more or less shared the same childhood pursuits. Some of them were expected to shine out as adults, and a few were expected to make it big in life. But alas … the future is made up of many little, seemingly insignificant choices, along with some major decisions one does every step along the way, in the journey called life.

Initial choices begin with little things, like choosing not to eat healthy right from the start, choosing not to eat veggies, for one, or choosing to sleep late and sleep in every day. It has to do with little things like deciding not to be on time, today, tomorrow, everyday this week, some days the following week, until it all becomes a deeply ingrained habit.

Soon we graduate into making bigger choices. It has to do with skipping classes, or choosing not to write that term paper, or deciding to ask someone else write it for us. Soon it is deciding to just take the short-cut and, instead of studying, just go ahead and cheat during exams. Further down the road, other choices dot the landscape of our lives. We graduate from cheating in school to cheating at work, to just receiving bribes, and closing an eye on some irregularity. Soon, people progress from a few thousands, to several hundred thousands of dollars (or pesos), till in due time, one does not even have to make a choice. One just goes along with the flow (known in Tagalog as “kalakaran”) … One does not really cheat … no … one only receives the “largesse” of people, and one does not want to know where the money really came from.

The choice that began with not doing one’s homework, or not getting up on time, has become a full-blown vice, and a deeply ingrained attitude. Nothing is wrong anymore, for it is just the way things are; it is just the way it is, and there is nothing I can do about it.

One or two of those promising brilliant childhood playmates of mine have turned to seed, with a few of them eventually becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol, living a no less that miserable existence. They have made choices right from the start, and the choices they made spelled their destiny.

I am pretty sure that corrupt officials who made it to the news in the Philippines these past few weeks did not wake up one fine morning capable of receiving millions and millions of pesos without batting an eyelash. No … they grew calloused doing it, a little at a time. The choices they initially made did not concern huge amounts, but little amounts that eventually effectively put off the light of conscience deep within them.

But you are here in Church today, just like me, to make sense of it all. Like me, you dream of a better self, a better version of yourselves, which according to Matthew Kelly, is really what holiness is all about. You have come here because you want to be reminded of the answers that you already know, truth be told. You have come here because, like me, you are struggling to make our daily choices in line with the will of God, and His dream for humanity. You have come here, because like me, you feel weak, you feel challenged, and you know deep in your heart, that it is not easy to remain standing, when all the rest around you are falling down like flies.

You have come here because you care. You care for your future. You care for your children. You care for your reputation. You care for the Church and society at large. And you care enough to be bothered by the news that seem to say there is no hope anymore for the world, for humanity, for our nation, for the political system.

Today, in between sighs, as much sighs of exasperation as sighs of hope, I have to tell you as a priest, that I believe in what Sirach reminds us of: “If you choose, you can keep the commandments, they will save you… before you are life and death … whichever he chooses shall be given him.”

I have to tell you as a priest that I subscribe to a vision – God’s vision and dream for us, and I also believe that “no one does he command to act unjustly, to none does he give license to sin.”

We have the power of choice. We have the power to decide for what leads to what St. Paul promises: “what eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

It has to begin somewhere. And that somewhere has to do with where it begins for us – the heart. Whilst we are right in feeling disappointed, angry, and hurt that our leaders, those we looked up to, are less than honorable, less than reliable, and even despicable, we have to find it in our heart to choose and to decide to begin with ourselves. We need to be wise and make the right choices – to do the right things and to do them rightly. In the end, we choose not something silly, but we choose no less than wisdom – God’s wisdom!