Today’s readings concern our actions: what we do and why we do it. Moreover, the readings also issue a reminder that our actions have consequences. When speaking about actions, it is essential to remember that we have been created in the image and likeness of God, which means that each of us has been given freedom and reason, and has been created for happiness. Thus, these three elements are crucial: free will, reason and an intrinsic desire for happiness.
Essentially, freedom is the ability to choose between two courses of action. To inform this decision, however, God has given us reason, and in doing so, He has also made us responsible for the consequences of our actions. In other words, because we can choose and have the ability to do so rationally, we are responsible for whether our actions move us closer towards that goal of happiness or not. It is this relationship that Sirach points out in our First Reading today: “Before each person are life and death, good and evil and whichever one chooses, that shall be given” (Sir. 15:17). What becomes instantly clear to this picture is that if we are to choose, and to do so rationally, then we need the proper information to make decisions. Therefore, God has not only given us these faculties but through Jesus, He has also revealed to us how we are to act. This is what our Second Reading speaks about. God is not the only one that is trying to speak into our decisions and choices. Indeed, many voices are trying to tell us how we are to act. Who do we listen to? God’s wisdom or the world’s?
Today’s world exalts freedom, and our freedom is indeed precious. But, contrary to what the world tries to say, our power to choose is not an end unto itself. It is not a matter of being free for the sake of being free. Instead, as God’s wisdom tells us, our freedom is precious because by choosing to act as God has commanded us to, we move closer to our goal: happiness. And, as St. Paul explains to the Corinthians, this happiness is not just any happiness, nor even my personal idea of it. Instead, it is the happiness for which we were created, a bliss that we cannot even begin to fathom: “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2: 9).
That this happiness is reserved for those who love him, implies, to a certain extent, that we who love Him can already begin to experience it here in this life. In the Gospel, Jesus says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Mt. 5:17). Subsequently, he goes on to give even higher standards of conduct than what the people of his time were accustomed to. However, this is not a restriction of our freedom, but rather the path to an even greater one. Once again, contrary to what the world says, our freedom is not for the sake of being free. Instead, it is freedom for something. It is the power to choose the good, to choose that which is going to bring us happiness. In short, it is a freedom that is for love. Jesus’ words in the Gospel are definitely a high standard. Nonetheless, they are the invitation, and in themselves, the grace, to conduct ourselves according to the kind of Love that made us, and that, already in this life, gives us a taste of the happiness reserved for us in heaven.
Santiago Torres – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta
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