The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2020 – Cycle A
Sirach 15:15-20; Psalm 199; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37
Do you think that freedom means you can do anything you want?
Are there qualities that filter through freedom placing qualifiers on its exercise?
Is law an infringement on freedom or a vehicle for its fulfillment?
Our answers to these questions will tell us much about how we make choices.
And life is filled with choices. You chose to gather and worship God today. Others did not. What informed your choice? Freedom or Law? Or Law and Freedom?
The scriptures place a number of choices before us today.
Fire and water.
Life and death.
Good and evil.
Our spiritual story began with a choice;
the fruit of all the trees in the garden or the fruit of one specific tree.
Now part of this inquiry has not been intentionally misleading but as I’ve proposed my questions how have you understood the terms freedom and law? Have you heard these words in a political and philosophical sense or have you been hearing them as spiritual values?
In other words,
is a constitutional understanding of freedom the same as freedom in Christ?
Though the concept of freedom may entail for many people, even in the political and philosophical sense, the qualities of responsibility, integrity and even self – sacrifice for others; for other people freedom is equated with license, doing anything I want, and law, of course, is understood as a limitation on freedom. Such freedom can be used as a weapon against others; a form of tyranny, if you will. Which means not everyone is free. Do not white supremacists exercise their sense of freedom against, Jews, African – Americans, refugees and any person or group who does not fit into their portrait of a “real” American?
Human freedom is real. Human freedom is God – given. And as we Christians have come to understand, when exercised properly, freedom is the reflection of the wisdom of God.
Notice what Jesus does through his teaching. Jesus does not abolish the Mosaic Law but rather reveals for us a deeper level of meaning to God’s Law. Freedom in the spiritual life as in the political life is a choice. But the difference is that freedom in the spiritual sense is a choice to conform to our most authentic self, that, image and likeness of God within us. True freedom in Christ means becoming the authentic person God intended us to be. Every other version of us is a façade, a fraud. And isn’t that what sin is, a fraudulent self?
What is at the root of murder, abortion, physician assisted suicide? What is at the root of the taking of a person’s reputation through gossip and slander, trolling and cyber bullying often resulting for many young people in suicide? Jesus teaches it is anger. Such choices demean not just the other person but ourselves. Does taking life make us more authentic in Christ? Are we freer without Christ and his teaching?
What is at the root of pornography, fornication and adultery? Jesus teaches it is lust. Treating a person as an object; a sexual object for our gratification. Does demeaning another person to the status of an object make us more authentic in Christ? Are we freer without Christ and his teaching?
Does lacking integrity in what we say make us more our truest selves? Are we freer without Christ and his teaching?
Consider the trail scene of Jesus. Who was free? Jesus or Pilate?
How often do we equate or confuse the possession of power with freedom?
The teachings Jesus places before us today on taking life, anger, adultery, divorce and speaking truth may seem like heavy constraints on our freedom. Are they? Is calling forth the most authentic self a limitation on freedom or its fulfillment? Notice Jesus’ teachings are all about the qualities we live out our lives with each other. Freedom in Christ has a communal character. It is not solely about me.
What values make you and me more of who we know deep down is our truest self?
Is that not true freedom?