Friday, January 28, 2011

A set of alternative ethics

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time A

One of the things that we have learnt from a very young age is to be strong and not let others take advantage of us. We must never lose out. If others are harsh to us, we must learn how to be harsher to them so that they will not repeat their actions. When dealing with unreasonable and bossy people, we too must be equally aggressive so that they do not climb over our heads. This is how countries often deal with one another. In 1999, the twin towers of New York were destroyed by terrorists. The following year, America invaded Afghanistan and in the year 2003, Iraq. This is the philosophy of big and powerful countries like America – “Show them who’s the boss!”

For us Christians, this way of thinking goes against every value of the Kingdom of God. The values of the Kingdom or the beatitudes are listed out in the gospel today: “Happy are the poor in spirit; happy the gentle; happy those who mourn; happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right; happy the merciful, happy the pure in heart, happy the peacemakers, happy the persecuted.” According to Jesus, it is the weak, the powerless, the gentle and the ones who patiently endures suffering or persecution that is blessed. This is certainly hard to understanding. In fact, it is impossible to understand these values if we were think like the rest of the world.

But St. Paul tells us: “it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.” Power, violence, hatred and revenge will finally result in the same thing – power, violence, hatred and revenge. Jesus tells us – “those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”

And so Jesus gives us an alternative set of ethics/values. It is the values that will transform our world into the Kingdom of God – the kingdom where God will ultimately be in control- the kingdom of peace, joy and love. Jesus counters the ethics of greed with an ethics of simplicity. He counters the ethics of power with the ethics of weakness. He counters the ethics of seeking revenge with the ethics of mercy and forgiveness. He He counters the ethics of dishonesty with an ethics of honesty. counters the ethics of violence with the ethics of peace.

Some of us may think: “This is easy for God to say. He’s God. He doesn’t need to suffer as we do.” But this is exactly what God had experienced in the flesh. God became one of us. Jesus becomes the perfect example of humility, powerlessness and non-violence. Jesus lived a life of poverty. He was gentle. He mourned over the loss of loved ones. He hungered for righteousness. He showed mercy. He was always pure in his intentions. He was a peacemaker and finally he endured persecution, suffering and even death at the hands of his enemies. It seemed that his enemies were victorious at the end. But we all know that it was really Jesus who was victorious. Violence and power had failed. Weakness and mercy had prevailed and won the day.

Today, if you are seeking the Lord, then seek integrity, seek humility, seek powerlessness, for then you will discover that it is when you are weak, you will be truly strong.

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