Whichever you choose
John Trippe of Rochester, New York, developed a kidney malfunction at the age of five. By the time has was 27, this condition had so worsened that he was bedridden and constantly on a dialysis machine. There was only one possible permanent remedy, physicians assured the family – a kidney transplant.
Transplant donors are usually sought among members of the patient’s family. Unfortunately, none of the older members of the Trippe family was found to qualify; neither the parents nor John’s four sisters. That left kid-brother Jerry who was only 16. It was a big decision for a teen-ager, so the family was careful to bring no pressure upon him. John himself, however much he desired to regain his health, neither encouraged Jerry to take the tests nor discouraged him. The choice had to be his own. Jerry decided to take the tests because he wanted to. He volunteered to submit to the almost excessive number of examinations required. He almost had to fight his way to be considered. The doctors and technicians warned him again and again to think twice about doing something he might live to regret.
Final results of the tests showed that John and Jerry’s system matched closely. Hence there was 80-90% chance of successful transplant which could give John at least 24 more years to live. Jerry gave his consent. The operation took place November 17, 1981. The transfer of the one kidney from brother to brother was a success, and both recovered nicely. When an interviewer of the Democrat and Chronicle asked Jerry why he had fought so hard to give up a kidney, he said, “I love John, and I wanted to do it. It’s as simple as that!”
One of the most godlike gifts God made us is our free will. As today’s first reading says, “There are set before you fire and water: to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.” We can choose fire and be burned, or water and be refreshed. But we can choose, of our own free will. What better motive is there for choosing to sacrifice a part of our life than because we love our brother?
-Fr. Robert F. McNamara
Q. 619: I keep the commandments; why should anything more be expected of me?
A. 619: Well, look at it this way. The scribes and the Pharisees presumably kept the commandments also; in fact, they prided themselves on their meticulous observance of the law in the Torah. But it seems that maybe they will not enter the kingdom of heaven (implied in v.20 of our Gospel reading today, Matthew 5:20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37). What seems to be missing? Perhaps the key lies in this word “righteousness.” Jesus lays down a condition to enter into the kingdom of heaven: one’s “righteousness” must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.
Our goal is holiness, which enables union with God. Holiness ensures our “righteousness,” a much too big word which simply means that we are in right relationship with God. However, surface-level spirituality does not lead to holiness but is really partial spiritual blindness.
Jesus is asking us in today’s gospel to get radical, to go to the roots of our thoughts, words and deeds and ask ourselves, “is this thought, word or act one of holiness and worthy of God’s blessing?” He spells out the significance of the Ten Commandments when he says that angry and insulting words are condemned because they violate a person’s dignity. Again, Jesus teaches that lustful thoughts are condemned because they violate the virtue of chastity as much as an act of adultery itself.
Our sanctification comes about through the action of the Holy Spirit. We must respond, repent, and renew our efforts to live in right relationship with God.
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Every Christian is called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle (CCC #2013, 2015).
But I Say to You
The Israelites had a great gift that set them apart from all the other nations in the ancient world , the Law of Moses, the greatest gift God had given them. Their pagan neighbors struggled to get some idea of what their gods expected of them. Their philosophers argued endlessly over the norms for ethical conduct. But the people of Israel knew what God expected of them. The difference between good and evil was clearly spelled out in the Law. As Ben Sirach reminds them and us in today’s first reading, all we have to do is choose good and avoid evil. “Before each of us are good and evil… life and death; what ever we choose will be given us.”
They all agreed on the importance of the Law, but they differed greatly on how to interpret it. Some insisted on complicated and legalistic interpretations in the traditions of the scribes. Others simply insisted on the letter of the Law without discussion.
Jesus too saw the Law as God’s gift to Israel. “I have not come to abolish the Law but to complete it..” The disciples were to love the Law but not become legalists. He shows this in today’s Gospel. He insists on going beyond the letter of the Law to the good which it promotes. It is not enough not to murder or commit adultery. We must cultivate in a positive way the virtues and attitudes the lay behind the Law, loving self-giving to others.
Lord, you have given us the freedom to choose between the road to life and the road to death, to choose our own future. Help us to choose rightly. Lead us along the path you have chosen. Help us when we stumble. Support us when we grow weary. Bring us to become what you would have us be.