HOW TO MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICES IN LIFE Reflection for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

The power of choice

There are two important gifts God gave to human beings from creation: the gift of life and the freedom of choice. We go through life making choices between alternatives; even the failure to choose between options is itself a choice. Notice that the fall of man was the tragedy of a bad choice which crystallized as the sin of disobedience.

The Book of Joshua (24:1-2; 15-18) gives us a classic instance of the freedom of choice. After a long period of instability in their fidelity to God, Joshua challenged the Israelites at Shechem to choose whom they wish to serve. However, he declared his choice in agreement with his household by saying: “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!” (Joshua 24:15).

On their part, the people responded by saying,” Far be it from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods. For it was the Lord, our God, who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, out of a state of slavery. Therefore, we will also serve the Lord for He is our God.” How far the people sustained their choice to serve the Lord God would be an entirely new topic for discussion.

Marriage is a choice  

St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (5:21-32) instructs that those who choose to enter marriage and build a family must be ready to accept and sustain some consequent obligations, including mutual submission and love.   

When a man and a woman plan to spend the rest of their lives together as husband and wife, they are making a choice that would generate a long chain of consequences as every choice comes with a consequence(s). It is thus very important that people choose to enter the marriage covenant freely and without coercion or simulation.

Union with Christ is a choice

Beyond the union of a man and a woman, which is open to the procreation of children, marriage points to the union Christ shares with us, the Church. St. Paul was using the idea of the wife submitting to the husband to demonstrate how we should freely submit to our Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). This analogy does not give the woman a lower status in the married life because the man and woman are equal before God (Gal.3:28).

The Gospel of John (6:60-69) concludes the drama that started early in that Chapter after the multiplication of the five barley loaves and two fish. Recall that the crowd sought Jesus after the miraculous lunch, but when they found him, he made it clear that they seek him not because they saw the sign but because they had all the bread they needed.

Moving further, Jesus instructed them not to work for the food that perishes but for the living bread that would give them lasting satisfaction. When they asked for that bread, Jesus made it clear to them that his body, the living bread that came down from heaven and whoever eats, shall have eternal life.

The people felt insulted that the son of Joseph had asked them to eat his body and to drink his blood, so many of them walked away and stopped following him. Now Jesus asked the Twelve if they too would choose to leave? Replying, Simon Peter makes a powerful declaration, “Lord to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life.”

Notice here that Jesus did not force the crowd nor the Twelve to stay and accept his words, rather he allowed them to choose, and as we can see, many of them chose to walk away just as the Twelve chose to stay with the Lord and his words of eternal life.

How to Make the Right Choices in Life

The life you have now is the consequence of a choice made in the past. Life is all about choices, and we are as good or as bad as the choices we make. After Jesus had engaged the crowd in a long discourse on the source of eternal life, many chose to walk away, and the reason is that they lacked the knowledge of how to make the right choices in life, which is what we shall explore briefly.

Focus on the long-term value: For every choice, there are long-term values and short-term benefits. Unfortunately, many people are so short-sighted that they can only see the short-term benefits and instantly go for them. For the crowd who engaged with Jesus, the most needed was the physical bread for the belly, not the eternal bread for the soul.

Do we not so often run after material satisfaction in our daily hustle in life? Do we not seek first the other things and neglecting the kingdom of God and His righteousness and so reversing the Lord’s instruction in the Gospel of Matthew (6:33)? Would you rather eat today and starve forever or starve today and live forever? The choice is yours!

Be mindful of the consequences: Making a choice presupposes choosing the consequences. We may not run away from the consequences of our choices, so it is highly recommended that we consider and weigh the consequences before making a choice.

Most people are either suffering or celebrating the outcome of the choices they made earlier. Therefore, there would be the need to constantly take the time to reflect on the alternatives before validating a choice.

Make a sustainable choice: Making a choice is one thing, and it is another thing to make it sustainable. Sustainable choices are those that stand the test of time. Recall that the people of Israel chose the manner of Joshua and his household to worship the Lord God and serve him alone. But the unfortunate thing is that they could not sustain this choice as they relapsed to the idolatrous ways of the nations around them.

Moving Forward: Heaven is a Choice  

If life is a foreground of choices, then that afterlife would be the consequence of our choices on earth; heaven is, therefore, a choice just like hell. God loves us so much and would want us to spend eternity with Him, but we would never force us. Revelation (3:20) says he is at the door knocking, but the choice is ours to open or not. Essentially, we freely choose to be eternal with God or be damned forever. It is all yours to choose, choose right. It is all yours to choose, but choose right.

God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.

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