You Have Heard…But, I Say

Sunday February 16, 2020 The 6th Sunday Ordinary Time (Cycle A)

The tie in between today’s readings: Walking the Walk

Psalm 119:1-5;17-18;33-34, Sirach 15:15-20, 1 Corinthians 2:6-10, Matthew 5:17-37

Today’s Old Testament reading in Sirach 15:15-20 presents a fork in the road from God. It’s an ancient choice that each person must make for themselves. Will I trust my life to the promised wisdom of a Devine Being or disregard the Almighty and decide for myself what’s best for me? Despite the forecast of a happy ending, few pick the God road.  We think this way because we are trapped in the illogical nature of sin. We believe virtue may be its own reward, but sin offers a world full of options to revel in. Father may know best, but I want…what I want…when I want it. In our delusion, we call it freedom, but in the end, our sinful choices make us slaves to our desires. So, choose! Follow the popular philosophy of Billy Joel in Only the Good Die Young, when he says, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints…sinners are much more fun!” or pick the road less travelled like the man in our reading in Psalm 119.

Here is a person that’s sold out to God. He accepts that the Lord has a better grasp on life than he does. He knows that God’s rules are good for him. He is confident the Almighty will help him along on his straight and narrow journey. Everything is great…or is it? In our gospel today, Jesus points out in Matthew 5:17-20, that the Law of God will last until the end of time. Obeying God’s precepts is the best thing that a man can do in this life. But, unless your righteousness surpasses the scribes and Pharisees, the most meticulous Law followers of their day, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven in the next life.  You may be moral, you may have religion, but you are still a sinner and like all sinners, you, my friend, have a heart problem. In Matthew 5:21-37, Jesus drives this point home.

The Bible places sin into three broad categories: the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Jesus exposes them by digging deeper into the individual. “Ok,” He says, “The Law tells you not to murder, but the root of murder is anger. Anger arises from social slights and reveals the murder in your heart. It’s the sinful thinking of the world that justifies your festering grudge. Do you think that your neighbor is a moron? Watch out! He is made in the image of God. Again, you are thinking from a fallen point of view. Reconcile with your brother before it’s too late. When it comes to your neighbor’s wife, you may not commit adultery, but you keep a going fantasy or two. That’s the flesh! You’re skating on thin ice! All you need is the right place and time to act on your lust, with grave consequences. Stop! Stay away from anything that kindles these desires. You take pride in making contracts you won’t keep with evasive wordsmithing. Though you hide in the technicalities, your intentions are deceitful. You are like the Devil, the father of lies. Just say what you mean and mean what you say!”

So, what do you do?  You’ll never be able to up your game to God’s standards. Why not give up, give in, and accept that deep down inside you cannot change what you are? Forget the struggle and go laugh with the sinners. If you decide, on the other hand, to fight the good fight, Saint Paul expresses his frustration this way:

21 I find then the [principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death (Romans 7:21-24)?  

Who indeed?

Paul answers his question in verse 25: “25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Our reading in 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 tells us the answer lies in God’s wisdom. God knew our situation was hopeless and came up with a solution so mind-boggling that even Satan himself couldn’t grasp it. If he had, then he wouldn’t have crucified the Lord of Glory. When Jesus rose on Easter Sunday, Christ became the wisdom of God for us. We can, by faith in our Lord’s sacrifice, be born again and regenerated within to a new life. Heaven’s gracious God works in our changed hearts here on earth.  Instead of our struggling efforts to love our neighbor by self-reformation, the Holy Spirit sanctifies our lives from within through transformation. Even though we stumble, we have ultimately won the battle over sin in Christ. Victory is ours! Heaven is ours! We are happy saints! Choose Calvary’s path. Come to Jesus. Don’t cry with the sinners.

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