Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
St. Anthony, the Abbot, whose feastday we celebrate on January 17 embraced asceticism. He was known for his wisdom and a life in the ways of Christ. He gave up his life of affluence when he heard in Church that if he wanted to be perfect he had to sell all his belongings, and give them to the poor (cf. Mt 19:21), and that tomorrow would take care of itself (cf Mt 6:34). One day two Greek philosophers visited him. They wanted to learn arguments about the truth of Christianity and the value of asceticism. Greek philosophers were known for their education, while Anthony did not attend extensive schooling. Anthony told his two Greek visitors: If you think me wise, become what I am, for we ought to imitate the good. Had I gone to you, I should have imitated you, but, since you have come to me, become what I am, for I am a Christian. Anthony’s life was one of becoming like Christ, not just knowing the arguments of becoming like Christ. He proved the world wrong in its affluence, and gave his wealth to the poor. He proved the world weak in rhetoric, and imitated the life of Christ. He proved the world wrong in its love and concern for itself, and spent his live in deep reverence and respect for God, so he could love neighbor as Christ loved him (www.catholic.org).
When King David was about to die, he instructed his son, Solomon: Take courage and be a man. Keep the mandate of the LORD, your God, following his ways and observing his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees as they are written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in whatever you do, wherever you turn, and the LORD may fulfill the promise he made on my behalf when he said, ‘If your sons so conduct themselves that they remain faithful to me with their whole heart and with their whole soul, you shall always have someone of your line on the throne of Israel (1Kings 2:2-4).
Success is not about affluence, power and influence. It is not about houses, cars, computers or cell phones. It is not about insurances, stocks or bank accounts. Success is all about the end. Steven Covey would say in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”: Begin with the end in mind. He encourages people to develop characteristics and values that would bring them to what they want to achieve. As Christians, our end in life is our relationship with God in the context of our relationship with His people. Success then is the acquisition of wisdom to grow in holiness through the observance of God’s commands, for “the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov 9:10).
Today Jesus brings us a picture of three of the ten commandments of God: the 5th – You shall not kill; the 6th – You shall not commit adultery; and the 7th – You shall not swear falsely. But all the Commandments do not simply end in the negative statement. They have much deeper and wider scope of understanding and much more to live of its implications.
So, Jesus states them clearly for people to understand:
1. Murder does not happen for killing’s sake. It starts with anger, desire for revenge, jealousy, inordinate craving for wealth, or excessive drive for convenience. But St. Paul urges each one “to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4:1-3).
2. Adultery does not just happen. It’s a decision, for it’s for adults only. A Christian understands that marriage is in the name of the Lord. It is a privileged covenant with the Lord. The letter to the Hebrews says: “Let marriage be honored among all and the marriage bed be kept undefiled, for God will judge the immoral and adulterers” (13:4). Jesus also declares: “from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy” (Mt 15:19).
3. False witness or swearing falsely. Words are precious. It was by His Word that God created the world. It was by His word that God created us, men and women, in His image and likeness; and yes, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us to deliver us from slavery to vices and sin. Words are our distinguishing attribute between us and other creatures.
So, convert your hearts, and your words will be full of wisdom, for “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20). Let the Word and the Eucharist that we celebrate and receive, bring success to the work of our hands (Ps 90:17) and give glory to God. He is our wisdom, our end and our success.