Sirach 15: 15-20, Corinthians 2: 6-10, Matthew 5: 17-37
We Become What We Choose
Two little brothers spent their full day mocking and fighting each other. For the whole day, they were mad at each other and did not want to set their eyes on each other. Normally, they used to eat together but that evening they decided to eat alone and each went their separate ways.
During the evening, they both entered their different rooms without wanting to talk to each other, but something happened.
When the first brother entered his room, He saw the picture that both of them took.
He saw how they hugged each other, and he then remembered how close and loving his brother could be, but he told himself that he will never talk to him again, that their closeness and relationship has been put to an end. He brought down the picture and turned it upside down.
Now, when the second brother also entered his room, he brought out some memorable pictures of how close he was with his elder brother, he remembered how the elder brother takes care of and loves him so much, and instead of turning down those beautiful memories, he decided to make peace with the brother.
That evening they prepared for bed, but as usual, they used to pray together in their families. Their mother noticed the differences that existed between them, so during the prayers, the mother asked them to pray for each other.
The first brother said “Dear God, bless our parents, friends and well-wishers. The mother asked him, “What of you brother?” He said, “God, you can decide to bless him or not”.
The mother asked the younger brother to pray, and the younger brother began, “God forgive me and my brother because we have forgotten how close we are. Bless him, He is a good person, I do not want to lose him” As he was still praying with tears, the elder brother stood up and hugged him and that ended the feud.
One significant aspect of life is that we become what we choose to be. Between two choices, there is always the good and the bad, there is always the expected and the opposite. Each one that we choose has its benefits and consequences.
In the story above, the elder brother chose violence, feud, and disunity, and what he reaped was more animosity, hatred and grudge for his blood brother, but the younger brother chose peace and peace reigned.
In the same way, in the readings of today, God presents to us the laws, followed by the benefits and consequences. We become which one we choose.
John Maxwell says “life is a matter of choices and every choice you make, makes you. Catherine Pulsifer says that life presents many choices and the choices we make, determine us.
He Has Set Before You Fire And Water.
In the first reading, Ecclesiasticus says that God has set before us fire and water. In this sense, fire signifies devastation, destruction and havoc. Fire causes havoc. Hence, water nourishes the body and gives life.
Therefore, Ecclesiasticus says that God has set before us two choices. He has given us the freedom to choose either life or death. In the first reading, Ecclesiasticus says, “If you wish, you can keep the commandments, and behave faithfully. That means that if you want to keep, you keep, but if you do not want to keep, there is no problem too.
Therefore, God is not coercing us or forcing us to keep His commands. In the responsorial Psalm, Psalm 119, He says that Happy are those who follow God’s commands. Therefore, the law of God is life, keeping to it is choosing life over death.
That is why in the first reading, the author says that Man has life and death before him, whichever way a man likes or wants will be given to him.
He has set before us life, wisdom, and power. So, to choose to do His commandments is to choose life. When we decide not to, we then choose death and damnation.
As the first reading says, God has not commanded anyone to sin, to be godless, to fear, worry, or doubt his power. He never commanded anyone to be godless, He has given no one permission to sin. Therefore, when we choose to do otherwise, we also choose the consequences that come from them.
They are happy Who follow God’s Law.
The responsorial psalm says that there is a benefit to following God’s laws. To live a life of blamelessness, to do the will of God, seek God wholeheartedly, and keep God’s commands according to the Psalmist is the secret of blessing and eternal happiness.
This is exactly what Jesus explained more in the eight beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12.
One thing that makes God different from other lawgivers is that He gives man also the freedom to choose to obey or not to obey Him. He has already told us that keeping to His commands will bring us life, open doors, blessings and wisdom. Yet He allows us to make our choice. So, whichever one we choose, we become that.
Therefore, in any choice that we choose, some rewards follow suit. God has given us this freedom as man.
A philosophical statement says that every cause must have an effect and every effect must have a cause.
The effect depends on the cause, so whatever we do either open or hidden, there is a reward awaiting. The commandments of God are divine and not human, so obedience to them also rewards which are divine. Disobedience also has rewards which are not divine. When we choose not to do them, it is no longer God’s mistake. We chose to choose death over life.
Adam and Eve were given this freedom, they have before them, death and life, but they chose death. They chose the one that is temporal over eternal.
This is one of the problems that we have today. We like choosing the things that we know must eventually pass away, over the things that will give us eternal life. In the political arena, whichever choice we make in deciding our leaders, will also affect us. So, let us choose wisely.
God’s Commands are For Our Good.
A command is an order that you have to follow, as long as the person who gives it has authority over you.
Command, which can be a noun or a verb, combines the Latin prefix com-, meaning “with,” and mandāre, “to charge, enjoin,” so to give someone a command is to say something with the authority that charges him to follow it. You do not have to say “no” to them.
In like terms, God’s commandments demand obedience and not otherwise. The truth is that God is the maker of the world, the first reading says for vast is the wisdom of the Lord; He is almighty and all-seeing.
So, He knows what we are to do to make the world a better place. He knows what we are to avoid to receive his blessings always. Thus, He gives us His commandments. God gives us His commandments not to punish us but to save us.
To succeed in life, there are some rules of life we have to imbibe, to succeed in school, office, organization, etc there are set out rules you have to obey. They are not there to punish us but as guiding principles to fully achieve success.
Thus, God’s commandments are not born out of wickedness to punish but to make the world a better place to live in.
There must be something in the commandments that only God who gives them knows. He gives them out of love. He does not want us to kill each other, to bring violence, to violate that natural order.
Therefore, When He says “do”, we have to do, and When He says “do not”, we do not have to. It is not to punish humanity but for the benefit of humanity.
For example, in Exodus 20:12 God says “Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long. This is repeated in Leviticus 19:3, Ephesians 6;2 etc.
What We have to Know about the Law.
1. In the gospel, Jesus says to the disciples,
“Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved.”
The point here is that the Pharisees were accusing Jesus of abolishing the law. Jesus heals on the Sabbath, allowing his disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath.
Therefore, the first point is that, this could be seen as a form of defence and explanation of what He is doing, which is different from what the Pharisees think of Him.
Therefore, regardless of whatever the Pharisees think, He did not come to abolish the Law. He even commended those who teach the Law accurately and hold it in reverence.
Remember that He says “ Anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven, but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19).
2. Secondly, By saying that He is not abolishing the law, but to complete the law, Jesus underscores what Psalm 19:7 says that the law is perfect since it comes from God. Since it comes from God, it demands our obedience to it.
3. So, While Jesus asserts that these laws demand total obedience, He also reveals that whatever the law and the prophets set to achieve finds its completion in Him. The fulfilment of the Law is found in Christ Himself. We have to put this in a way that you will understand it.
a. The point here is that the mosaic laws were many. It is not only the ten commandments. There are many of them, which later became a burden for the people. This is because the people believed that keeping whatever the law demands is the way to salvation.
b. Now, Jesus as the fulfilment of the law means that whatever these laws or standards set out to achieve is found in Jesus alone. Therefore, Jesus Christ is now the way to eternal life. It is no longer by trying to keep the law as before.
c. What this means is that we now look upon Jesus and not on the law.
Therefore, if the law of God is perfect and demands obedience, a relationship with Jesus will lead us to perfection. We have to obey and keep a good relationship with Jesus.
When we keep a good relationship with Jesus, we normally do everything not to allow sin to come in between. Even if we make a mistake, we come back to Him immediately, because we will not like to lose the relationship. This is when love binds our relationship with Jesus.
When this happens, we do everything because we love Him. It is no longer doing them because the law says so.
By doing this, we shall discover that we will always remain faithful and close to Jesus even in the time of difficulties. Even when we fall, we will always like to remain close to Him.
d. When we remain close to Jesus, we shall then bear good fruits, living like him, touching loves, and saving souls.
He says “remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me? I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5).
e. By remaining so close to Jesus, we are then sure of eternal life. Jesus is the secret of eternal life. Our prayers also become effective. He says
If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:6-7).
3. Also, this means that all the sacrifices of the old testament and prophecies of the prophets come to fulfilment through the coming of Jesus. Therefore, we do not offer sacrifices again with goats and rams for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus has offered the one last sacrifice through His death. He is the source of mercy and remission of our sins.
4. Therefore, righteousness is no longer by following the letters of the law, whether it affects a man or not, rather righteousness is by following the spirit of the law, what the law sets to communicate, to bring love, justice, peace, and forgiveness of sins.
Therefore, the principles that will guide us now are mercy, peace, love, peace and joy. For example, righteousness does not only come by following strictly all the laws of the church, going to masses every day, and receiving holy communion, yet we lack mercy, we hardly forgive, we are the cause of disunity wherever we are etc.
You are a prayer warrior, yet you are the cause of problems in your broken homes. This is not what Jesus wants.
If we are truly close to Jesus, we must be messengers of love, peace, mercy and joy. Salvation is no longer by the letters of the law but law of love. I hope we understand this clearly.
So, when we choose to abide by Jesus and His words, we become like Him, our lives will change, and we become instruments of salvation. But when we decide not to, we become instruments of the world, living like the world, bringing souls to damnation.
We become what we choose. When we choose to be like Jesus, we shall be a light to the world, and a candidate for God’s kingdom.
Choose What You Want.
Being the fulfilment of the law, Jesus follows up his statements by interpreting the law gradually. In his interpretation, He lays down the expectations and the opposite. We become what we choose.
1. Firstly, Jesus says that it was said that we must not kill and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. Then, Jesus says that anyone angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire”.
Therefore, Jesus says here that we must not kill, we must not be angry with one another, we must desist from court cases etc. If we choose to do this, we shall avoid the consequences but then if we choose to kill, be angry with one another, and fight each other then we suffer the consequences.
2. He says if you are bringing your offering to the altar and you remember that your brother has something against you, Jesus says, we have to leave the offering there before the altar. Then we go and reconcile with our brother first, and then come back and present our offering.
Jesus advises that we come to terms with our opponents in good times when the case is still at the low moments, otherwise it may rise to a level we may not handle again and even suffer or die of it.
Here, Jesus underscores the importance of reconciliation and the consequences of not reconciling with people who did us wrong on time.
Therefore, we choose the reconciliation and its benefits or we choose the consequences of not doing so.
Sometimes, we understand this, yet we choose not to reconcile, hence, we suffer the consequences and put ourselves in hard situations.
3. Jesus says that we have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord.
But He says that we do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king.
We Do not swear by our heads either. All we need to say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’ Yet we close our hearts and make wrong choices in life which are not according to the will of God. When we suffer the consequences, then we return to blame God.
We become what we choose. Jesus has placed the laws before us, He goes on to tell us what God wants in them and also the consequences of not choosing otherwise.
The problem is that we do not pay attention to Him. We know that what we want to do is bad, yet we choose to do them. When the consequences come, we then remember God. We become what we choose in life.
If Your Right Eye causes You to Stumble.
If your right eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna. If your right hand causes you to stumble (Greek: skandalizei), cut it off and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna.”
The word to stumble is skandalon which means the bait in a trap, or a stumbling stone in a pathway, a camouflaged pit into which an unwary person might fall. The idea here is that our senses and capabilities, given by God for good, become instruments of evil when misused and cause us to stumble and fall.
Those things that have the potential to do good or to give pleasure; money, sex, a glass of wine, we misuse them and this has been the ruin of more people. Jesus uses hyperbole (exaggerated language) when He says we shall cut the bodies off.
Jesus’ point is not that we should pluck out our eyes or remove our hands. His point is that sin is so deadly that we need to be serious about eradicating it from our lives. We dare not compromise with evil. And to eradicate it, we have to start from the source or the root.
1. We become what we choose in life. Our choices in life define who we are. The point is that each one we choose has rewards or consequences.
When you choose to remain close to God and live a holy life, you reap the benefits of it. Then, when you choose to live a life of immorality, you also reap the consequences.
In our families, when we choose peace, peace becomes the watchword. Then when we choose violence, we shall also reap the consequences. We become what we choose to do in life.
2. This calls for critical introspection and evaluation into the problems and circumstances, suffering and mistakes of our pasts. We have to find out what went wrong.
Maybe we decided not to apologise, we decided to bring disunity instead of love, we decided not to make efforts etc
Whenever we decide to choose the opposite of the things we are supposed to do, we suffer also the consequences.
Therefore, to correct these problems and mistakes we find ourselves in, we have to correct the choices we made.
3.When we pursue the things of heaven, the earth will become habitable but when we are solely interested in the things of the world and relegate God to the background, we lose the richness of the heavens and the world itself becomes uninhabitable. The things of heaven are love, peace, joy, mercy, justice, etc.
Imagine a world where peace reigns, where brotherly love governs, and where forgiveness rules.
Then, Imagine a world where people are interested in the good of the other, rather than causing his downfall.
Imagine a world where a successful man knows that His blessings come from God and He is Blessed to bless others and not the other way.
Also, Imagine a world where leaders govern with prudence and love.
Also, Imagine a world where there is no quarrel, no killings, no terrorism, no kidnapping, no wickedness, no court cases, and the killing of others for selfish purposes.
Imagine a world where all wish for the good of the other. but now jealousy, wickedness, hatred, envy, kidnapping, murder, and evil spiritual manipulations have become the other of the day.
Imagine a family that is strongly united in love
Then, imagine a world where politicians do not see politics as a game but as good service to humanity.
Imagine a family where brothers live in Unity, pray and eat together with no squabbles and are strongly united.
Imagine a world, imagine that family, imagine you, when we live the way God wants us to live.
If we pursue the things of heaven, we can also create heaven in this world. THE WORLD NEEDS LOVE.
May God bless and protect You. Amen.