6th Sunday in OT / A / 2020
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
Our readings today deal with choices: 1) which path will I choose in life, 2) what choices will I make to form my life, 3) what decisions will I make to establish my character, 4) what kind of person will I choose to be. They are all choices.
Take a look at the first reading, from the Book of Sirach. We don’t often read from Sirach in our cycle of readings. It belongs to a collection of books in the OT called "the Wisdom Books," and it was written about 200 years before Jesus.
Todays reading deals with freedom—our freedom to choose good or evil. The opening line: "If you choose you can keep the commandments; they will save you." If you choose.
Let’s pause here a moment and think about choice. Children, you might say, have it the easiest: their choices are made for them. Everything they do, from getting up in the morning to going to bed at night, is determined by their parents. We call this "heteronomy," (a law determined by the others).
As a child moves toward the teenage years, they begin to seek greater freedom—they start to become more autonomous (a law unto themselves, nomos meaning law).
In discovering their freedom, teenagers will sometimes go overboard—their self-will is strong, and their choice just might be the opposite of their parents. This is natural and normal, and a little dangerous, as teenagers experience the awkward birth of freedom. As maturity begins to take hold, choices become more thoughtful, and a person transitions into adulthood.
So, let’s go back again to Sirach, the opening lines: "If you choose you can keep the commandments; they will save you." Is there really a choice here? Are we really free to
choose? The answer is Yes. Sirach is not talking about imposing a law on us. In a bigger picture, think of God’s covenants with his people. These covenants are not imposed; they are agreements, statements of understanding, worked out between God and the people.
In other words, God doesn’t treat us like children—with everything imposed on us (heteronomy). Nor does God want us to be a law unto ourselves (autonomous).
Rather, God places before our freedom his commandments. We call this "theonomy." God’s law. It is given to us as gift. And we can accept or reject it.
But here’s the thing: 1) we also have to believe that God has our best interests at heart. 2) We have to believe that God loves us and wants to help us. 3) We have to believe that God respects our freedom. 4) We have to believe that some law, some guidance, is good—and that we will benefit from it.
As Christians we believe that God’s yoke is easy, his burden light. To take on God’s yoke is to become fully human. Fully authentic.
That is theonomy. To choose God’s commandments. To choose full personhood. To live in peace, joy, goodness, truth and love.
From heteronomy to autonomy to theonomy.
"If you choose you can keep the commandments; they will save you."