“Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.” — Sirach 15:17

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle A. Readings:

1) Sirach 15:15-20

Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34

2) 1 Corinthians 2:6-10

Gospel: Matthew 5:17-37

Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

Most people would agree that living an ethical life boils down to our personal choices between “good” and “evil.” Others might use different criteria, such as useful or not useful, pleasurable or not pleasurable, etc. Whatever our standards, we value the freedom to identify our own paths as one of the most treasured aspects of being human, and we resist someone else’s telling us what to do.

Today’s readings are full of references to making wise choices, but as St. Paul states, the wisdom informing those choices is “not a wisdom of this age.” The wisdom spoken to “those who are mature” takes the form of “statutes,” “decrees,” “commandments” and “law” — the very things that make postmodern society nervous.

Fearing a loss of freedom, some renounce organized religion and submission to God’s commandments. But the Bible leads us to a great paradox. God, the author of human freedom, doesn’t command us to act unjustly and “to none does he give license to sin.” St. Augustine put it another way, writing that God is the master “whom to serve is perfect freedom.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus not only affirms the “law and the prophets” but interprets them more rigorously, teaching that “whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

In our day-to-day living we constantly make choices, between the freeway or the backroads, a salad or a burger, or whether to wear the blue tie or the red one.

Very seldom do we actually choose between “good” and “evil,” but faced with what we perceive to be two “goods,” we usually pick what we think is better; or confronted with two undesirable outcomes, we go for the one that’s “not so bad.” And we think that our exercise of choice comprises the extent of human freedom.

Today’s readings are God’s invitation to take his gift of freedom to the next level, to not merely settle for the lesser of two evils or the more expedient of two good outcomes. God wants us to be truly free in the deepest sense of the word, to be formed according to his life-giving divine wisdom and to act accordingly. His commandments are the means that make this possible.

QUESTION: How do you use God’s gifts of free will and his commandments to make daily decisions?