Sunday Sermon for February 16, 2020, the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: Sir 15:15-20; 1 Cor 2:6-10; Mt 5:17-37

In the second reading today, St. Paul speaks of a wisdom that is obtained by the spiritually mature.  It is not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age.  Instead, it is divine wisdom.  Even more to the point, Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Wisdom of God.  So, when speaking of a divine Wisdom, we are speaking of Jesus. 

Certainly, He is known to many, but how many actually know Him?  We live in a world where very few can claim they do not know who He is, but very many have chosen to reject Him, ignore Him, or dismiss Him.  Most have rejected Him because they do not know Him; consequently, they have rejected God’s plan for the salvation of the world.

This point is very important to understand.  Sirach tells us in the first reading that God has set before us fire and water, life and death, good and evil.  He also tells us to reach out our hand to whichever we choose; whatever we choose will be given to us.  In other words, saying we believe in God is not enough; we must make a choice.

As persons we are made with an intellect and a free will.  As human persons we also have a body.  For any person, when they make a choice, they have to act upon that choice.  For human persons, that choice is expressed physically in and though the body.  For instance, if you just decided you have read enough of this homily and you are going to either read another article or put the paper down, you should not be reading this sentence.  The fact that you read this sentence demonstrates that you did not actually decide to stop reading.

We can judge our own self by our actions because those actions express our choices.  This is why Sirach tells us to reach out our hand to whichever option we chose.  Ultimately, it is Heaven or hell, God or the devil.  Most people will say they want to go to Heaven and that they do not want the devil.  However, their actions bespeak just the opposite.  We can easily fool ourselves with our words, but our actions make our choices clear.

It may be that most people would prefer to go to Heaven and they would prefer not to be with the devil.  However, a mere preference rather than an actual choice will not get us to Heaven or keep us from the grip of the vile creature.  It is necessary that we make a concrete choice.  If we want to go to Heaven, then we need to choose Heaven and begin living that way.  If we do not want to be with Satan, then we have to renounce him and choose the Lord.

Jesus speaks of this in the Gospel today when He speaks of those who obey the Commandments and those who break even the least of the Commandments.  Those who break the Commandments of God, which will not pass away until they are all fulfilled, and teach others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of God.  Those who obey and teach the Commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

It is the actual choice that matters.  All the deliberating, all the empty words we speak, mean very little.  It is the choice we make and the example we give to others that will be the object of our judgment. 

Jesus told us that we need to know what we are getting into when we choose Him.  He taught the parables about the person who decided to build a tower and the king whose army came upon the opposing army with twice the number of soldiers.  Each had to make an informed decision.  Each needed to reevaluate their original decision in light of the new information they received.

Knowing the Lord requires that we make a decision to serve Him or not to serve Him.  Lip service will not suffice.  Jesus did not simply talk about the Cross, He embraced it and was crucified on it.  Once we know the Lord, we can no longer merely speak of our belief in Him; we have to choose to live our life for Him.

If this is new to you, then you are like the persons mentioned above who needed to reevaluate their decision in the light of new information.  Jesus is calling us to love and to serve God and neighbor.  He is calling us to live Godly lives in this world, rejecting what the devil, the flesh, and the world have to offer.  This is the choice each person must make.  The choice is yours: the world’s wisdom or God’s Wisdom. Whichever you choose will be given to you.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit