6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
6th Sunday / Ordinary / A
February 11-12, 2017
St. Thomas Aquinas, Ames, Iowa
Fr. Jon Seda
What do you want to be when you grow up? I asked one kid after the 8:30 Mass this morning, and she told me she wants to be a ghost. I asked if ghosts make a lot of money, and she thought they did. When I was asked as a kid, I alternated between being a hog buyer and president. They have nothing in common, and I no longer with to be either. I enjoy asking kids this question because it gives some idea of what is going on in their little heads. But notice how their answers almost always tell us what they want to do, not be.
The readings today suggest a better question: Who do you want to be when you grow up? The first reading from Sirach focuses on who we are becoming. Sirach says the Lord sets before us fire and water, good and evil, life and death. And what we choose will be given us. It is as simple as that. What we choose will be given us. We are not victims as much as we sometimes think. Each day we are making choices which shape who we are becoming.
Sometimes in confession, people will wonder aloud how they got so far off track in life. It usually happens so slowly that don't know notice it. I think to myself, yep, I know what that feels like. I quote our founding pastor, Fr. James from Ames Supple who served here 49 years. He would often say to pay attention to small decisions, because it is in our small decisions that the real decisions about our lives are made. Choices we make now shape our lives later.
This week I met with a young couple to schedule a wedding in the Church. The bride to be told me, "Father, we have chosen not to live together before we are married." I said, "Well, many of your peers think that is just fine, and everybody is doing it. Why did you choose that?" She simply said, "Because that is not God's way."
I find it refreshing to meet a couple who sees through the lies of our culture. It is refreshing to meet a couple who seeks to do things God's ways, not their way or the culture's way. I told them they are wise, and they are building a solid foundation for their marriage. Choices we make now shape our lives later.
Today's Gospel is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. In this section, Jesus speaks of three ways that our lives can get off track. The first is anger. It seems like many of us struggle with anger, and I am not sure why. Anger usually occurs when we are trying to control something or someone we cannot control Or when we replay some wrong done to us over and over in our heads, so we choose it. Jesus says that anger and bitterness is no way to live a good and noble life.
The second is lust. We swim in a culture full of dehumanizing views of sexuality. So we slowly learn how to use people, and forget that healthy relationships are about what I can give to you, not what I can get from you. Jesus says that being a slave to immediate gratification and using people for my own selfish end is no way to live a good and noble life.
The last one is the inability to make and keep commitments, which also is common in our culture. It is to let people down when something or someone better comes along, which usually happens. We just walk away from our commitments and are not true to our word. Jesus says lack of integrity is no way to live a good and noble life.
The Sermon on the Mount goes beyond external behavior and laws, and Jesus looks deep into the soul, which is where real virtue and vice resides.
When we ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, they usually tell us what they want to do. The readings today suggest a better and deeper question: Who are you becoming? A great answer would be to say that when I grow up, I want to become a saint.
Each and every day of our lives, we are making choices which shape who we are becoming. Without being deliberate and intention about these choices, we will become just like everyone else. There is only so much we can go about the world around us. There is a lot we can do about the world inside of us.