February 16, 2023 | By Fr. Vincent Arisukwu
February 16, 2023 | By Fr. Vincent Arisukwu
Matthew Kelly wrote a book titled, The Wisdom of the Saints. In the introduction, Kelly writes, “In these pages, you will encounter the voices of the saints, their greatest insights into how to live well, their most inspiring wisdom for growing in virtue, and their most powerful advice for stepping into the heart of God.” The saints had one unique thing in common, namely, the special gift of wisdom. While they lived, they valued their relationship with God over everything. They prioritized virtues and fought vices from the roots. With wisdom they mastered their desires and took charge of their senses. The saints excelled in doing good because they were inspired by wisdom.
The readings of this weekend invite us to identify underlying causes of our actions, to know the difference between right and wrong, and the importance of making right choices. Evil will not disappear from the world and sin will not cease to exist. Rather, God grants humanity the freedom to make choices. God allows us to use our free will in a responsible manner.
In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve used this free will wrongly. One wonders why God did not take this free will away from humanity after the fall, especially, if it was at the root of the downfall of his most cherished creature. The surprising answer is that human freedom is a part of God’s will for man. Ironically, God will not lead humans to choose one path over the other. Rather, God has bestowed on us the gift of wisdom, the ability to know right from wrong, the desire to please Him by our choice of good over evil.
In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks about the capacity to scrutinize everything, even the depth of God. Such capacity resides in wisdom, God’s special gift to humanity. Wisdom can be said to be that which in the words of Paul, no eye has seen, that which ear has not heard, that which does not enter the human heart on its own. Wisdom is what God has prepared for those who love him, endowed through the Holy Spirit.
What exactly is the goal of wisdom? Scripture explains that it is, “to have dominion over the creatures you (God) have made, and rule the world in holiness and righteousness, and pronounce judgment in uprightness of soul” (Wis. 9:2-3). God’s wisdom is immense, mysterious, and hidden. It cannot be acquired through human power. Wisdom increases through righteousness.
As he continues his teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus distinguishes God’s commandments from the shallow teachings of the Scribes and the Pharisees. As usual, Christ digs deeper into the intentions behind the laws. Why would the commandments command what they command? And why would they forbid what they forbid? What is the reason for faulting the Jewish laws? What does Jesus mean when he says he has come to fulfill the law? Jesus always takes us deeper because he is filled with the wisdom of God. As the Psalmist says, “Deep is calling on deep” (42:7). Jesus is the depth of God. He brings to us the Spirit of God and through him God’s Spirit reaches deep into the spirit of His children. In Christ we experience the depth of sweet communion and fellowship that God so passionately desires to have with us.
For instance, the underlying cause of adultery is lust. So, why would humanity dwell on the act without addressing the underlying reason for such action? Jesus teaches us to embrace virtues and to stay above the demands of the flesh. Jesus says, “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her.” So, it is beyond the act. We need to resist the urge of succumbing to the lures of the senses. He recommends, “If your right eye would cause you to sin, cut it out and throw it away,” because getting into heaven is more important than possessing the senses. God desires our friendship and wants us to uproot whatever cuts us off from his love.
Jesus reminds us to constantly pray for wisdom. With wisdom we know how to reconcile relationships and not end up in courts. With wisdom couples know how to preserve and respect the sanctity of marriage, seek the good of their spouses and cherish their love, rather than seek divorce. With wisdom humanity would work to uphold truth and to abide by its precepts, not swear oaths that create unnecessary burdens. Wisdom motivates us to embrace God’s commandments with joy. Wisdom makes us seek to love God from our hearts.
We must understand the right use of the senses. The senses are not bad in themselves but can be used wrongly without wisdom. The eyes can lead to sin if not guided with wisdom. The hand can lead to sin if it is allowed to touch bad things. The mouth can speak evil if it is not controlled. The ear can hear bad things if it is not managed properly. So, it matters to sever the root cause of evil in order to live in the way of God.
The choice is ours because we have the free will. Choosing evil can be a choice as well as choosing good. Choosing to keep the commandments can be a choice as well as not choosing it. Choosing to gossip can be a choice as well as choosing to speak truth and beauty. Choosing to support abortion can be a choice as well as choosing to promote the sanctity of life from conception through natural death. Choosing to view pornography can be a choice as well as choosing to shut down the sites that lead to such act. Choosing to study can be a choice for the student as well as choosing to waste time and watch video games. Choosing to be exemplary parents can be a choice as well as choosing to let the kid do what she wants. Choosing to practice one’s faith can be a choice as well as choosing to let it down. Choosing to vote with right conscience during election can be a choice as well as choosing to compromise one’s vote. Each of these choices has been placed in our hands. God is not taking our freedom away because we chose the wrong. Yet, He desires the best of us by our exercize of right responsibility. To love the good is to love God wo is the source of all good.
As Sirach says today, God sets before us, “fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him” (Sir. 15:16-17). Only by wisdom can we choose life over death. What are your choices?
Readings: 1st- Sirach 15:15-20; 2nd- 1 Cor. 2:6-10; Gospel- Matt. 5:17-37