SUNDAY, SIXTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
Sir 15: 15-20; Ps 119: 1-2,4-5,17-18,33-34; 1 Cor 2: 6-10; Mt 5: 17-37
MADE FREE BEINGS IN GOD
We are free human beings! The readings of today especially the first reading and the gospel testifies that we are not forced to do good or to do evil. Rather we have been given the choice – to choose among the alternatives. What distinguishes us from machines is that we have the gift of freedom. Ah! Freedom – a gift of being able to act without being constrained. In its purest form, it is having the greatest physical and mental mobility to be able to choose from a large amount of potential experiences. Thus, I am free to eat what I want, drive where I wish or even sleep when I want.
But, am I really free to eat what I want? No, I need to eat only what my body can digest. Can I drive where I wish? NO! Traffic rules prohibit me from doing it. Sleep when I want. Well, I can think of that but who will do my job, attend classes or even run errands? It seems that the very notion of freedom is blotted. If I am really free, why do I have to obey the rules of society? Why should I be forced to accept the norms of culture? Well, such circumstances land us into thinking that there is no unconstrained freedom. While we call ourselves free human beings, we are not.
Imagine a world where everyone has his/her say. It would end up in unimaginable chaos! Rather, “freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1731). It involves having autonomous free will. In this free will, one has the choice to choose values and beliefs, basically to choose between good and evil for me and for the larger society. This choice bears the strength of one’s responsibility. Thus, while I am free to eat what I want, I am at the same time responsible for taking care of my body. While I can drive how or where I want, I have the responsibility to ensure that no one gets hurt or unnecessarily bothered. It is by my free will, I shape my life.
The reading from the book of Sirach clearly shows that we have been given the choice – the moral choice to choose between good or evil, fire or water, life or death. At the same time, the author of this book prompts us to choose good over evil. Well, the ball is in one’s court! Choose good, avoid evil. The ten commandments also say that. While one is always free in choosing evil over good, bringing upon oneself the consequences of one’s actions, Christian morality tells us to choose the good. It is not forced, but a guidance given to us. Today’s Gospel is an exhortation of this from Jesus Christ to be righteous i.e. to wisely employ one’s free will for the betterment of myself, my neighbour and my society.
Where is the source of human freedom? Science doesn’t give any explanation because the source of our freedom lies in the supernatural. The source of all human freedom is God. He is not just the source of human freedom but even the goal of it. Our every ‘good’ choice brings us closer to God because human freedom grows, matures and attains its perfection only in God. The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. In choosing ‘evil’ one becomes a slave of sin, thus determined to act what evil would deem one to do.
Therefore, all of us are endowed with the gift of freedom – the ability to choose between good and evil. We know in choosing good, we rise up to be our nobler selves. But how do we discern what is good and evil, especially when it is difficult to distinguish between the two? The answer lies in the second reading of today – to seek the gift of wisdom imparted by the Spirit of God. God’s Holy Spirit grants us the wisdom to discern the truth from falsity, the beautiful from the ugly and the good from evil and thus our every choice must be preceded by a prayer to the Holy Spirit. Let us, therefore, employ our gift of freedom nobly and secure the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being always with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray to God, to guide us in making good and right choices in every life situation.
Response: Blessed are those who walk in the law of the Lord!
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