Sunday February 12
First Reading (Sirach 15. 15-20) . Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 119). Second Reading (1
Corinthians 2.6-10). Gospel (Matthew 5. 17 – 37)
We are entitled free to choose as we prefer. God never compelled us to do this and that. He
created, approved and blessed our free will. He knew that without this greatest gift we are only
animals. However he with all his wisdom and concern for us indicated, how we should enjoy
this life fully using our freedom. In today’s first reading we read that he gave some directives,
which the Bible calls as ‘Ten Commandments’, and informed us if we observe those directives,
we would be blessed with abundant life and if we don’t we have to face curses-filled life. The
Bible stresses the dichotomy existing in the world and how it encroaches into human lives. It is
the dichotomy of good and evil, life and death and light and darkness. It is indeed a fundamental
and a very necessary choice, human have to make in order to be blessed. God wanted us to make
use of our freedom in this regard and find success.
As Sirach says, each person must choose between life and death … and whichever one chooses
will be given. The choices we make every day have a life or death quality. Every day we are
choosing in one direction or the other.
We all have reasons for the choices we make. Sometimes we are seeking approval and
acceptance, wanting to fit in and be liked. We choose based upon the costs, benefits and risks
involved. Sometimes we may just give up and refuse to choose. Sometimes we choose power,
control, or security. Often our choices are about self-protection or making ourselves feel happier.
Or we might choose to make another feel bad, and attempt to get back at him or her; or more
positively, we may choose to make amends and make up.
Our experience of making choices brings us back to our reading from Sirach. There is one
fundamental choice to be made — the choice between life and death. Where will I spend
eternity? The choice that really matters in the end is between life and death. This ultimate
criterion should affect all other choices. What good does it profit a person to gain the whole
world, and lose ones soul? (cf Mark 8:36)
Bringing this to an everyday level: could our daily lifestyle be described as life-giving? Do we
choose to help sustain and nurture life for ourselves and others? Or do we choose to diminish or
ignore the good of others? Do we try to make our world a better place? While Jesus sets us a very
high standard, Sirach claims that we can keep the commandments if we really want to. Both
readings call us to evaluate our habitual ways of choosing.
The Sermon on the Mount offers high moral ideals, not a set of firm commandments. Jesus
forbids not merely murder but also lesser forms of injuring others. The importance of forgiveness
is so great that it comes before strictly religious duties. He tells us “leave your gift there before
the altar and go; first be reconciled to your neighbour.” We must respect not simply people’s
right to life but also their right to dignity and self-respect.
The prohibition of oaths is not taken literally in Christian countries, where oaths are taken in a
courts of law. But in a perfect society characterised by trust and truth-telling, oaths should not be
needed to reinforce our words. Jesus promoted an atmosphere of openness and trust. What he
offers as a supplement to the Law of Moses is a morality of values held from the heart.
The Jews were proud of the Law of Moses. According to tradition, God had given it to their
ancestors, as something precious and unique. In that Law was contained the will of the one true
God. There they could find all that they needed to be faithful. For Jesus too the Law is important,
but now it’s not in the centre. He communicates another priority: God’s Reign is coming, the
Father is looking for a path to open among us for the building of a more human world. It’s not
enough for us to just keep Moses’ Law. It’s necessary to open ourselves to the Father and to
collaborate with God in building a more just and fraternal life.
That’s why it’s not enough to fulfil the law that orders: “Don’t kill”. It’s also necessary to root
out of our lives aggression, looking down on others, insults or revenge. Whoever doesn’t kill
fulfils the law, but if we don’t free ourselves from violence, then that God who seeks to build a
more human world with us still doesn’t reign in our hearts.
There’s a growing tendency in our society to speak in ways that express aggression. More and
more we see offensive insults cast about just to humiliate, look down on others, wounding their
dignity; words born of rejection, resentment, hate or revenge. How often are our own
conversations woven from unjust words that spread criticism and suspicion? Words spoken
without love or respect, that poison our living together and cause damage – words born of
irritation, meanness or baseness.
This malice isn’t just found in our day-to-day living together. It can also be a serious problem
among church leaders. Pope Francis warned against conflicts and confrontations between
different groups. He shared this sobering thought: “It pains me greatly when some Christians can
foster enmity, division, calumny, defamation, vendetta, jealousy, and the desire to impose certain
ideas at all costs. Whom are we going to evangelize if this is how we act?” Ideally outsiders
should be able to admire in our church how we care for one another, encourage and support each
When God wants us to be choosy, most of us misinterpret it in a wrong way. This was true in the
life of the Jewish people. Their religious leaders and experts had interpreted the voice of life and
formulated them into ‘commandments,’ and later interpreted them according to their
environment. When Jesus came, with full authority vested on him by the Father as he
ascertained, he interpreted the God – given laws and handed over them to his Church. In today’s
Gospel, we hear four of his interpretations on the Commandments of Yahweh, according to the
End times. As He emphasized he did not come to abolish those laws but to fulfill them. This
means, he was anxious to bring them back to their roots and basics. In his time, Jesus found out
most of the ingredients in Torah were mere human inclusions and insertions and not based on
God’s revelation. Therefore, he was concerned with the inner attitudes with which a law should
be obeyed rather than, their outward implementation. For example, he wanted us to love our
neighbors even if they turned out to be hostile to us; he expected us to possess a purity of heart in
all our relations and not just avoid the sin of adultery; regarding making oath in the name of God
he went further and added that we should never make any oath on God’s name.
Jesus demands from us not a mere peripheral choice on good or bad but a fundamental one that is
stable and spirit-oriented. As a Matter of fact, all of us are tuned to make choices, that are very
peripheral. Though there were and still are in our midst some Christians, who try to deviate the
path of Jesus’ reformed Codes, as Paul writes in his letter, not relying on the human wisdom but
on the wisdom of God, Jesus Crucified. The Church encourages us today to follow the renovated
Code of living as Jesus proposed, and invites us always and especially at our scrupulous and
doubtful times, to make better choices for good living and to refer to the three important
resources: To refer to Jesus as the fundamental choice for life of God in Jesus; to refer to the
Bible as the revealed instructions from God; to refer to the teaching authority of the Church,
seeking counsels not from attractive pleasing –mouth persons, rather from trustworthy and
reliable ones. This is the way, to make our life fruitful and successful.