I asked a friend of mine what this Gospel was about. He said: Choices. It’s all about choices. And recognising which choices best lead to salvation.
Immediately my mind began racing. I thought first of Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking while Martha was distracted with all the serving. Each of these women made a choice when Jesus arrived and Mary chose ‘the better part’.
Then I thought of last week’s gospel and the choice the priest and Levite made to cross to the other side of the road when they saw the man lying half dead. It’s not like they ‘accidentally’ crossed to the other side, a kind of coincidence. No, they saw the man in his distress and made a choice, a bad choice, both for the poor victim and for themselves.
The Samaritan, on the other hand, made a choice to go to the aid of his fellow human being, his neighbour and in so doing made a choice also in favour of his own salvation.
As the Catechism instructs us: §1 God infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. And then, further on: §1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. Tragically, Adam and Eve chose disobedience – they chose to love themselves – and like all wrong choices the consequences were disastrous all round.
Perhaps the most devastating of these consequences was the impairment of our ability to see things clearly enough to choose wisely. It was as though our hearts and minds were covered with a thick fog, causing a kind of blindness which easily mistakes evil for good and good for evil.
Very few people make a wrong or a poor choice deliberately. If only we could see and evaluate with clear eyes and wise hearts, but we can’t. We judge wrongly and then choose badly.
For this sad situation there is only one remedy. Can you guess what it might be? Let me tell you. The answer to our inner blindness which causes us to make faulty decisions is: God’s commandments.
God is not blind. God sees all things clearly, in their essence. God sees into the depths of everything, not just the appearances. He understands his creation and the laws by which it prospers and flourishes. He sees into the future and comprehends the smallest and the largest effects of each action. Nothing at all is hidden from him.
This is why God’s commandments are so crucial to our happiness. In the wisdom of his laws God offers poor blind, confused humanity a safe route by which to achieve happiness on earth and to reach its heavenly homeland. In his commandments we discover the wisdom to choose as God chooses. No wonder he is always telling us that his word is life (c.f. Mtt 4:4; Jn 6:47).
And yet, isn’t it amazing how we resist the commandments of God? God commands us not to kill and so we murder the infant in the womb and dispatch the elderly with a hypodermic needle. God defines marriage as between a man and woman and we redefine it to include same sex couples. God declares sodomy to be an abhorrent sin and we declare it to be a matter of gender equality, a right. Is it any wonder the world is heading for ruin?
We say the Church is in a mess, and so it is, but the world is in a much larger mess. The Church is at least trying to reform, to purge itself of its failures, but the world is stumbling headlong towards its own destruction because it will not recognise and admit its errors.
By way of conclusion let me point out a critical area in which young Catholics – in a messy world – would do well to let God inform their choices – the area of vocations.
I punched the word choice into my Bible concordance programme and discovered that the first eleven times the word is used in the Bible is in regard to the choosing of a marriage partner. Now, I find that exceedingly interesting.
Who among us would maintain that young people today give this matter sufficient thought and prayer? I certainly don’t. And yet it is an area in which God clearly offers his help if only we would turn to him. In Genesis 24:48 Abraham’s servant is led by God to the woman he has chosen to be a wife for Isaac and the servant prays: I bowed down and worshipped God...who had so graciously led me to choose... Young people, God led that servant to choose and he will do the same for you.
Finally there is the area of religious and priestly vocation. God knows we need young men and women from among our number to give themselves entirely to the service of God ... but only if God himself calls them. John 15:16 recalls this truth: You did not choose me, no, I chose you. God chooses and we respond. Let us all, as well as the young men and women themselves, pray for the grace to discern and to respond to God’s call.
God’s choices are always made with an eye to our eternal happiness. His choices are expressed in his commandments. We do well to keep them.