A Cycle – 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time 20
1 Cor. 2: 6-10
Recently my youngest grandson went to his first reconciliation. Prior to that day he had been receiving instruction regarding sin and forgiveness but also, he had become aware of what the church teaches us about right and wrong, reward and punishment. Those are lessons he learned from his parents teaching him their rules and guidelines for the peace of their household, his safety, and to provide him with a moral compass for a lifetime. Each of us understand how societal laws benefit us all. In addition to societal laws, we also understand how the church laws give us a solid foundation and how they benefit our spiritual life as well as providing us with moral norms to live by.
But today’s gospel goes beyond what we might think as reasonable and even counters what we have been taught about self-reliance and taking responsibility for one’s self. In one way the words of Jesus are pointing directly at the failing of Adam and Eve and how they destroyed God’s plan for us by their reliance on self instead of God. Think about their sin for a moment and you will see the reason they failed to obey the one command of God was because they were tempted to believe God was withholding something good from them. Did God really say, “not to eat of the fruit of the trees.” Of course not, he said not to eat the fruit of one tree in the middle of the garden, the tree of knowledge.
But the seed of doubt was planted in their hearts and they wondered why God would tell them to avoid that one tree. Knowledge is a wonderful thing; we seek it in many forms. It is learning through observation, inquiry or study. We are in control of what we learn and how we apply what we learn. Today we have the word of God telling us through the wisdom of Sirach how trust in God leads to life and how it is a choice we must make. Adam and Eve did not trust God and their lack of trust cost us all. Today we depend on the laws of God and the church to keep us on the straight and narrow path leading to heaven.
But Jesus is telling us the law is only the first steps toward a life of doing God’s will. The law is explicit, if you kill you are liable to judgment, but it leaves us a lot of room to do other things to people who wrong us. But Jesus closes that door when he tells us even if we get angry, we are sinning. Adultery is clearly a sin, but Jesus takes the sin of adultery to another level by telling us even if we think about it, we are sinning. Long before Jesus gave us these examples of what it takes to be in right standing with God, we heard God say, “be holy as the Lord your God is holy.”
Here is the sad truth, my grandson is not ready for that high a standard nor are most of us. The sad truth is we are incapable of following the standard set by Christ. We carry with us the same desires that Adam and Eve had, the desire to find a way to be like God by ourselves. Yet, if we would pay attention to God’s words to us, we would discover the truth is choosing the road set for us by God will allow us to live as God demands we live. That road is not beyond us, nor is it too difficult for us. God has pointed the way and has made that way clear from the beginning of time. Listen to his voice, follow his plan and we will experience life as God intends.
The key to it all lies in the command of God not to eat of the tree of knowledge but to rely on His wisdom and His plan to become the people he created us to be. Paul points this out in our second reading today when he says, “…eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.”
There is only one way to grow in trusting in God’s plan to make us holy men and women. It will never be by our own pursuit of knowledge, or our pursuit of holiness for that leads us to self-righteousness. And self-righteousness leads us to believe our strict adherence to the law and our ability to reign in our desires means we have attained all God desires of us. What we miss is understanding God desires our hearts not our self-righteous selves. For the self-righteous have no need of a savior. How do we make the choice to seek holiness by God’s plan rather than depending on the law?
Again, the answer was given to us by God and it is simple because all we must do is surrender our will to God’s will and allow God to change our hearts. That can only happen when we seek intimacy with God instead of seeking to show God how well we follow his commands. Intimacy with God grows when we spend time with God in prayer, in reading the scriptures to discover God’s heart and nature and inviting the great gift of the Spirit to come into our hearts and change us.
Paul speaks of the wisdom that comes from the Spirit rather than the wisdom that comes from man. Once we have that wisdom, we will begin to walk in the light of God’s revelation rather than in the light of our own wisdom. Once that happens sin becomes clear and we realize that the former sins of the law are supplanted by the law God writes on our hearts and we begin to discover our true nature is to conform to the image of the God who created us.