“If you choose, you can keep the commandments & they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live; … Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.” (Sir 15:15; 17)
God made man free. This means God gave man the power to act of his own accord. Man has the power to act or not to act – and if he chooses to act – the power to act one way or another. Man can choose his own way and he can do so deliberately taking into consideration what is good or bad and what is right or wrong. Thus God gave man not only the power of freedom but the proclivity for prudence which allows man to seek after what is beneficial and honorable and to avoid what is detrimental and dishonorable.
Freedom does not happen without responsibility. The misuse of freedom results in injury to one’s self or injury to others (often resulting in punishment to one’s self). This is the rule of life and the rule of law. It is also the law of God. Being made in the image of God we understand the cooperating principles of freedom and responsibility: that overreaches in freedom result in pain and in penalty. Or do we understand this any longer?
So many people today appear to be frustrated and angry because they cannot grasp that their errant moral behavior is the cause of their frustration and anger. They suffer personally and spiritually because they cannot distinguish between what is actually good and what only appears to be good (yet is actually bad). A person who is unable to discern between the good and the bad has little chance of knowing the right from the wrong. His corrupted conscience will continue to stray from the path of happiness.
It is for this reason that knowledge and practice of God’s commandments are so needed today. Our quotation above from the Book of Sirach reveals an ancient wisdom: each person chooses the good or evil he or she ends up with. God lures no one to Hell; God lays out before man life and death. Man chooses his own way. God wants to lead man to Heaven, but each man can refuse God’s truth and grace in his own unrepentant free will.
For this 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time we have placed on our bulletin cover a work by Heinrich Hofmann entitled Christ and the Rich Young Ruler (1889). Hofmann was a German Academic painter heavily influenced by the Italian masters of antiquity. Hofmann dedicated himself to images portraying the life and activities of Jesus.
Here we see Jesus offering the young man a choice: to continue his rich worldly lifestyle or to follow Him to the riches of God’s kingdom. Unseen on our bulletin cover (due to the width of the painting) is a frail, ill man cared for by a woman who resembles the Blessed Mother. Hofmann paints Jesus asking the young man to use his riches to serve others rather than only himself. The young man looks away in obstinacy. We know he goes away sad (Mt 19:22).
The young man need not gone away. He could have stayed with Jesus selling all he had for the “pearl of great price” (Mt 13:45-46). He could have prudently chosen, at that moment, everlasting happiness.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services