“Before men are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him. Immense is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power, and all-seeing.”
–(Book of Sirach, 15:15-20)
St. Augustine said that the freedom of choice is man’s ticket to heaven, and not otherwise due to his / her tendency to sin.
These are amazing words! Profound and endearing words to us who take the path of objective moral values in life to God. There is nothing arbitrary about God’s Law and therefore it is not a transient set of values. It reflects the wisdom of creation itself. The passage from the Wisdom of Sirach argues that within the great Wisdom of God’s creation, human persons have freedom of choice in shaping their lives, and their society. St. Augustine said that the freedom of choice is man’s ticket to heaven, and not otherwise due to his / her tendency to sin. God is never responsible for human sin, and destruction, nor does it constitute a license to sin and destroy. Life and sin are before us. God sees all, and He guides us. But we are responsible for our actions. This passage is stark in its insistence on human responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions and decisions.
It is easy to assume, on the one hand, to conclude that St. Paul’s mind in understanding of God’s Law from the Book of Wisdom are simply the same. He also writes of God’s wisdom, hidden in a secret purpose, which will complete our understanding of our own life story to fulfilment. We live in a confusing world, at times chaotic and dysfunctional, but time will come and all will come to truth.
The Gospel speaks of the completion of the law; the secret purpose of redemption in Christ clearly does not mean that the law is abrogated in favour of license. God’s law is from the beginning and it will last to the end because it is not arbitrary but the very wisdom of creation. In Jesus, the law touches reality to guide and fulfil the good purpose of every human being, and when the law touches the substance of human life, Jesus interprets the traditional prescriptions far more demandingly than most of us would have expected. He does not reduce the law, but bring it to its fullness and completion.
Thus, the beginning of violence and destruction is not murder but includes the many ways of putting one another down, of hurting, excluding or despising another, of holding grudges and unwillingness to discuss problems. Likewise, personal insecurity and breakdown of families come about not only through sensational adulteries, but through each person’s commitment and enduring fidelity in personal relationships. The lustful eye that sees another as less than a person, as an instrument for pleasure, profit, is at odds with the reality of God’s Kingdom. And also with breaking oaths, or forms of many lies, deceits and evasion that make oaths necessary in human society.
Jesus is teaching here the meaning of a transforming new attitude. He is asking us to go beyond the law, to observe the spirit of love and justice, and responsibility arising from a sense of what is right.