Choose Life and Live

02-12-2017HomiliesFr. Tony Okolo

In the first reading from the book of Sirach, Ben Sirach tells us to choose between life and death.He goes on to tell us that it is within us to choose between life and death. He says, “If you trust inGod, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forthyour hand. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be givenhim.” What it means is that it is in the capacity of human beings to choose what he wants in life.God does not interfere with our human freedom. He has given us the will and intellect to choosehow we wish to live our life. If we choose life, the road is there for us, if on the other side wechoose death the door is equally open. However, the question is what the writer means by “life”.What does it mean to choose life? Is it just from conception till our last breath? And does deathmean when we give up the ghost.

From the Old Testament time we learn that to be alive means loving the Lord your God, obeyingthe Lord, holding fast to the Lord, this is what it means to be alive (Deut 30:20). The Psalmist says,“For a day in your temple is better than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10). Then the prophetEzekiel says, Say to them as I live says the Lord God, “I have no pleasure in the death of thewicked, but that the wicked turn back from their ways and live, turn back from your evilways” (Ezekiel 33:11). Therefore, to be alive was to turn to God. We are alive if we live our lives inGod and we are dead if we cut ourselves away from God. We are alive when we recognize that weare created in the image and likeness of God and live our lives in such a way that God becomesthe center of our lives.

According to Fr. Walter J. Burghardt a Jesuit scholar, “I am not genuinely alive simply becausethere is life in me. Simply because I watch a time clock from nine to five, or a late show from eleventhirty to one. Simply because my standard of living is high, my cholesterol is low. The point is thatI am not genuinely alive simply because I am not medically dead. For, in the Christian vision, tolive is to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He Sent (Jn 17:3).”

The same theme of choosing life is echoed in the gospel reading of today. Jesus, in the Gospel,which is part of the sermon of the mount we have been hearing for the past two weeks, establishesnot merely what you should not do if you want to win life. He goes deeper to point beyond wrongconduct to the sources of evil conduct. For all the evil, life destroying deeds prohibited by the TenCommandments arise from evil thought, which at first manifest themselves in evil words before they lead to evil actions. Thus, if we are to be genuinely alive Jesus prescribes for us a root treatment, and he encourages us to begin with ourselves. There must be renewal of hearts, of attitudes, of the very foundation of our behavior. Thus, he names three major areas in which weneed to purify ourselves.

First, conflict management. It is not enough simply to abstain from murder. Much more common isthe homicide of the heart, of the thought of hate, rage, and displeasure at another person, whichexpress themselves in character assassination and hurtful words to another. Secondly, is adulterywhich begins with the eyes, in the heart. It begins with our disdaining marriage, the life relationship with the other person, and deceiving our own spouse long before it comes to outrightadultery. Finally, the reliability of our words, our truthfulness. He who resorts to swearing is already acknowledging that he usually does not play straight with truth. Our hearts should be upright: a “Yes” should be a “Yes” a “No” should be a “No”. Only on such honest people can yourely. It is when we order our lives in such a way in God’s truth can we be genuinely alive.

Happy Sunday to you all and God bless you.