Jesus’ words can be—and often are—both comforting and challenging at the same time. Perhaps that is what makes them so difficult for the non-believer to accept and for those of us who believe to take to heart. I know that I am not perfect. I am trying hard to live the Gospel but it is not easy; in fact, it is impossible without the Grace of God. I know all this and I believe it and I accept it but that does not make it easier because I am forced to exercise my Free Will; I am forced to choose, not just once but many, many times during each day of my life.
It would be so much easier to live the Gospel message if it weren’t for other people! That is what is at the heart of Jesus’ words—other people—because my love of God is so easy to experience here in Church where it is quiet, controlled and contemplative but as soon as I step out of the Church I experience the randomness of the world. I am challenged by confusion and I am forced to choose.
Consider these opening words of today’s first reading:
If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.
Now I appreciate ever more the theology of Free Will. It is what sets me apart from the rest of creation. God does not just want simple creatures who appreciate Him for the comforts of this life. He wants to share His infinite love with those who can choose Him over the simple comforts of this world—that means you and me.
St. Paul also speaks of a wisdom that is not of this age. It is a wisdom for the mature, a wisdom with Faith and Hope that is revealed to us through the Spirit.
Jesus puts it rather bluntly today with words that, again, are both comforting and challenging:
“Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the evil one.”