Homily for 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A By Fr. Jerome Ituah, OCD

Readings: Sir 15:16-21; Ps 118(119); 1 Cor 2:6-10; Matt 5:17-37
Theme: Our Fundamental Option for the New Law of Jesus Christ
Every second, minute or hour of the day, we make choices. Choices to eat, sleep, work,
visit friends, attend church, etc. The choices we make determine what we do and the subsequent
outcomes. Some outcomes may turn out perfect, and others may go wrong. When our choices
go wrong, we talk about missing the mark, sin. Therefore, we must carefully consider the
various options to make a choice. Our readings today present us with the fundamental option
that can guide us in making the right choices.
Our first reading is from the book of Ecclesiasticus, also known as Sirach or Ben Sirach.
Found only in the Catholic Bible, the book of Sirach was written in Jerusalem by one Jesus,
son of Sirach (Ben Sirach) (cf. Sir 50:27). He was a High Priest between 219-196 BC. In
chapter 15:11-20, the author speaks about sin and free will. God created human beings with
the freedom to make choices because he did not intend us to be robots. When we exercise our
free will, we cannot blame our choices on God because God hates all abominations and evil
and intends that we always choose only the good (cf. Sir 15:11-14). God has given us the
commandments as rules to guide our choices. Still, he gives us freedom. ‘He has placed before
you fire and water,’ two simple and common elements. Either can be good or bad, depending
on the use or circumstance. People drown in water, and fire kills. But we need water and fire
for many other good things. Therefore, the things we choose may not be harmful in themselves.
However, we may put them to the wrong use. Consequently, we need the wisdom to make the
right choices.
God’s wisdom is great. God is mighty and sees everything. Nothing escapes his notice.
He knows who cares and who doesn’t (as Don Williams also says). God has not given anyone
permission to sin or be godless. He wants us to be like him by emulating his wisdom and living
St. Paul takes up the theme of wisdom in the second reading. He writes to the Corinthians,
offering the mature people among them, who wish to be perfect, a wisdom different from that
of the Greek philosophers. Paul says: the wisdom of this age will pass away. But God’s wisdom
is a mystery, pre-determined before the ages began. This wisdom has been hidden from the
natural intellect. It was hidden from the rulers of this world, including the Jewish leaders. If
the Roman and Jewish leaders had known this secret, they would not have crucified the Lord
of Glory. Paul links the killing of Jesus to the ignorance of the leaders who had no sufficient
knowledge of the plan of God. Thus, the hidden wisdom is the revelation of the person of Jesus
Christ through the incarnation, life, death and resurrection. The Corinthians, and indeed all
Christians, are fortunate to know Jesus, the Wisdom of God. the Holy Spirit has revealed this
hidden knowledge, the Spirit who reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God.
Therefore, we have the fundamental choice as Christians to choose Jesus Christ, the Wisdom
of God.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells his listeners, as he continues the Sermon on the Mount, that he
did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfil them. Whatever he was teaching them was based
on the Old Law, the Ten Commandments, they already knew. However, there was something
wrong. Although they knew the Law, they had not practised it rightly, and their leaders and
teachers, the Scribes and the Pharisees had not guided the people correctly. Therefore, Jesus
tells them to observe the spirit of the law he is presenting to them, for there is a reward for
anyone who practices and teaches them to others.
To make a fundamental option to follow this law that Jesus offers and to enter into the
kingdom of heaven, Jesus’ followers must live above the righteousness of the Scribes and

Pharisees. Righteousness comes from the Greek word dikaiosune, which also means
uprightness and, in the legal sense, justice. In the religious sense, dikaiosune means mercy,
charitableness, justice and equity. In other words, there has to be fairness toward all. Jesus
accuses the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:13-29 of sitting on Moses’ seat teaching the
law but not following it themselves. In other words, their righteousness is only external. They
have not internalised the law and live according to it. But the law of Jesus moves from mere
external practices to internalising the laws. Jesus summarises the ten commandments: love of
God and love of neighbour. Love is not based on external acts but on a heart dedicated to God
and empathy towards others. Hence Jesus says to his followers how it was said to them not to
kill. But he says to them that killing begins from the heart and anyone who hates is already a
murderer. Anyone who lusts is already guilty of adultery because he has contemplated the act
in the heart. To surpass the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, the followers of Jesus
must be pure of heart as he teaches in the Beatitudes. Only those who are pure in heart shall
see God.
The choice is ours. To be like the Scribes and Pharisees, putting up external shows to
attract attention and praise. Or living the righteousness that springs who a pure heart, not
cooking up the evil that will hurt our neighbours or damage our relationship with God. If our
fundamental option is based on Jesus, our choices will always be good.

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