Sunday Sermon for February 16, 2014, the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Sir 15:15-20; 1Cor 2:6-10; Mt 5:17-37
In the second reading today St. Paul states that he speaks a wisdom to those who are mature, but, he says, it is not a wisdom of this age nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away. The Wisdom of God is Jesus. This is the wisdom we are all supposed to be preaching. However, it has to go beyond just speaking about the Wisdom of God; we have to live it.
In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells us that not a jot or tittle will pass away from the Law until all things have taken place. And Sirach states explicitly in the first reading that if we choose, we can keep God’s commandments. What becomes interesting for us to consider is that in our worldly wisdom we think that rules and commandments are for the immature who need these laws to keep them from doing foolish things. While there is certainly some truth to this, the context of the readings today suggest that the commandments of God are for those who are spiritually mature.
It is true that if we follow the commandments we will keep ourselves from a lot of trouble. But the commandments are not negative. Although there is a lot of “you shall not” involved in these precepts, they are positive because they are not intended to restrict us but to allow us to live with the complete freedom of the children of God.
In fact, if we consider the question of promiscuity in its various forms, we would have to say that it is a problem of the immature. This does not mean merely young people, but even those who are of a mature age act with gross immaturity when it comes to questions related to sexuality. But it is not limited to areas of purity. Consider any aspect of morality and you will find the same pattern. I am often astounded when “mature” people have the same basic dispositions as high school or college aged young people when it comes to activities that are or can be sinful. In such cases our spiritual immaturity is evident for all to see.
When we consider what we hear in the Gospel today about marriage, for instance, our Lord really could not have been more clear about the question of divorce and remarriage. He did allow for some instances where a marriage would be invalid, but short of something that would invalidate the Sacrament, marriage is for life. Even if there is a civil divorce, the couple is still married in the eyes of God and of the Church because no man, even if he be a judge or a head of State, cannot separate what God has joined. This means that even if apart from one another, the couple must still live according to their vows of marriage.
In our Society, as it is in so many around the world, we have found easy and convenient ways around these divine precepts. It has become so commonplace that we now have people in the Church who are seeking to justify actions that are directly against what our Lord spoke in the Gospel. There are people in the hierarchy who are suggesting that marriage (and priesthood) should be temporary so that people can decide whether or not they like the situation and want to stay in it. We have Bishops conferences in some countries that are seeking to allow people who are living in a sinful state to be able to receive Holy Communion. Even a Vatican Cardinal has asked that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would “lighten up” on norms regarding Communion for those who are divorced and have entered into a non-Sacramental marriage.
One would have to wonder where this will stop. Are the divine precepts to be followed? Are they the wisdom of God? If so, why are we seeking to substitute the wisdom of this world for the wisdom of God. I grant that the worldly wisdom is more in line with human inclinations. It is more convenient and, essentially, it allows me to play God by making the rules as I see fit for my circumstances at the moment.
If we apply the concept that we can forgo the law of God in the case of marriage, then why can we not bypass the Divine Laws in other cases as well? Once you replace divine wisdom with human wisdom there is no stopping the snowball as it races down the mountain destroying everything in its path. No, God’s laws are eternal and He has written them in our hearts. It is time that we quit acting like kids and grow up spiritually. This is a choice and, if we choose, we can show our maturity and keep the Commandments.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.