Postage for Pakistan and other parts of the planet

Sunday, February 13, 2011

We always have a choice

In certain circles these days, it is popular to say you can't help your feelings. Feelings are neutral, we're told, and thus not sinful. To an extent that's true. Something upsetting happens, and it provokes anger in us. We see something we can't have but which we dearly want, and we feel jealousy. Men see a gorgeous woman who appears to be the ideal of beauty, and they might feel some tinge of arousal.

But we can help what goes beyond that initial impulse. And that seems to be what Our Lord is talking about in today's Gospel (Matt 5:17-34). Though it seems patently clear someone we know or know of is a patented idiot, we can't call him such. Even if our habit is to fly off the handle (something to which I've certainly been prone more than my fair share), we can work to gradually take control our anger and emotions. Otherwise, Jesus says, we're guilty of murder. Even if we are jealous of someone's possession or quality, we can keep that from rising to the level of envy (i.e., not only being jealous but actively setting out to destroy that possession or quality because "If I can't have it, neither will you."). That gorgeous woman, well, men will be attracted to her. But that means we simply notice ever so briefly and move on. We don't allow that thought to metastitize by fantasizing about her in a lustful way, for as Jesus makes clear, lusting after someone in our hearts is adultery and thus a violation of the Sixth Commandment.

We have a choice. And as we see in the First Reading, Sirach 15:5-10 and Psalm 119, God's commandments are set before us. We have the ability to choose between good and evil, life and death, the blessing or the curse. God will take care of us if we choose, good, life, and blessing, even if doing so will cost us greatly. Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, but we are truly wise, as Paul notes in the Second Reading, 1 Corinthians 2, if we choose to do the good not out of mere fear -- say, of hell -- but for love of God. Sirach tells us God knows all and sees all, and that He does not give us license to sin, and we cannot deceive Him as to our actions. But if we persevere in choosing good, life, and blessing, "eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has planned for those who love Him."

Before you are set the good and evil, life and death, the blessing and the curse. The choice is yours. We are not merely a bundle of feelings that can't be helped. We are not lifelong prisoners to our passions or habits. We can choose what we do with those feelings. Choose life that you may live.

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