6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
February 16, 2014
IF YOU SO CHOOSE …
It is hard to see the connection … Wisdom is not associated with rules and commandments. The Scribes and Pharisees were definitely learned people, by the standards in operation then. They were the equivalent of today’s illuminati, the few, the privileged and the titled. Who would not want to count among the then society’s elite?
But today’s readings would have us look beyond titles and degrees: stuff that eyes do not readily see, nor ears so quickly hear about. Just look at what goes on repeatedly in our country. It pays to hover around higher circles, and to hobnob with people walking in the corridors of power. Big time thieves and crooks rubbing shoulders with “honorable” men and women in all three branches of government change colors from being plain thieves to being whistleblowers, to being heroes, all in a matter of a few years, or a few months, or even a few weeks.
They are definitely not your run-of-the-mill diploma holder. They are wise beyond doubt, street-wise perhaps, but brilliant in ways that ordinary people like us may never be able to fully understand.
But these same ordinary people are the object of today’s teachings. That happens to be you and I. And in very simple terms this is what the teachings are all about …
First in the list from Sirach is that we all have the power to choose. Yes, if we choose to, we can “keep the commandments.” If we choose to, we can pursue that which leads to life, not death. Just look at us … We can choose to arrive on time for a concert or a gig that we all like, but we can also half-heartedly choose to arrive late for Mass.
Secondly, and this is from Paul who writes to the fractious and fragmented Corinthians … we can also choose to be worldly wise or acquire wisdom from above – God’s Wisdom – and choose to look and see “what eye has not seen, and ear has not heard.” We can choose to follow the well trodden path or that which no one has dared to tread. We can choose to follow the bandwagon, or follow the beatings of a different drummer.
Third, and most importantly, this ultra worldly wisdom means to go beyond what the world ordinarily values and appreciates. The Lord counsels us to go beyond the earthly wisdom of the Scribes and the Pharisees. It means to pursue something higher, greater, and nobler.
The Gospel teaching today speaks of three things that are closest to our experience: anger, lust, and truth-telling. I don’t know about you, but I am very familiar with anger. I get angry very often at just about anything, big or small. Who does not feel angered at the dawning realization that we are being taken for a ride by people who love to call themselves “honorable?” Who among us have not burned with illegitimate passion for the forbidden fruit of our sensual desires? Who among us have not been tempted to run away from truth that is not convenient, or truth that puts us on the hot seat?
We are face to face with our sinful nature everyday. We are always on the uphill climb, always struggling to reach the summit, not of our earthly desires, but of God’s dream for each and everyone of us. Even when we sin, theologians and philosophers tell us, we actually are trying to address, albeit mistakently, that deeply embedded desire for the ultimate, for the highest, for the utmost – for God!
I love today’s readings. They touch the core of my humanity – broken by original and personal sin (all my own, not that of others), but called to the heights, called to become the best I can potentially be, by God’s will.
I love and appreciate my humanity. I am not rotten to the core, helpless and hopeless in my weakness, but strengthened and encouraged by one who became exactly how and what I am, like unto us in all things except sin – Jesus Christ!
I still get angry, but I know I am not called to remain in my anger, and still more, not to give in to my anger and act it out indiscriminately and irrespective of others’ feelings and welfare. I still fall prey to my own unbridled desires and selfish tendencies, but I am also called to give of myself and my best and to rise above my selfish tendencies. I still struggle at times to tell the truth, while keeping in mind telling the same in charity, and with no tinge of malice towards anyone.
It is hard. It is hard to keep one’s emotions in check, especially when one knows deep in one’s heart that justice remains a pipe dream for all of us sons and daughters of Adam and Eve.
But today, this is what I hear and this is what I tell … You can do it. We can clinch it. And all it takes is the conviction that we all can do it, if we so choose to. Ours is the choice. Ours is the decision. And ours, too, is the promise of the Lord: “The eyes of God are on those who fear him.”