As a child I remember my sister playing a game in which there was a wheel that turned around with a pointer. The words: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, and Thief were written on the circumference of the wheel. When the wheel stopped turning, the pointer would indicate the kind of man she would marry. But we are not victims of chance. We can freely choose.
All of us have free will to choose a profession, a life companion, where we live and what we will study. Wise parents will encourage their children to freely and responsibly make these choices themselves. When there is the freedom to choose, one tends to own responsibility to succeed. Freedom is what distinguishes man from an animal. An animal acts on instinct. A man is free to follow his conscience. How then do we respect the freedom to choose given by God himself to everyone?
Yet there are even more important life-choices we make as disciples of Jesus, like forgiveness, sharing and being life-giving to others. These affect eternal life and happiness.
In the famous story of the prodigal son, the father respected his son's decision to squander his share of the property in loose living. But he waited for his son to return to his embrace. When he did, he had a celebration. Small children are not able to make wise decisions for themselves and need the guidance of their parents. As they grow older, they may have to learn by trial and error. Failures can become stepping stones to success. Each one needs to assume personal responsibility for ones choices. The Father of the prodigal son chose to forgive. He chose to celebrate his son's home-coming. He chose to wait for the right time, when his son was ready to resume his son-ship. God may be still waiting for you and me to choose.
Formation of conscience is an important part of growth for a disciple of Jesus. The law may inform us of what is permitted and what is not, for the general good. Laws protect our right to life, property, one's good name or one's wife, though they may appear to curtail another's right to kill, steal or commit adultery. Our conscience keeps us aware of respecting other's rights.
My pleasure, security or comfort is not the only criterion in making decisions. I am part of a wider community. The Gospel tells us about some important life-choices that will affect not just this life, but eternal life.
One of the greatest choices we can make is to forgive and release the one who hurt us from having to pay back what he owes. The Divine Master forgives us repeatedly from enormous debts we can never repay. By contrast, what small debts we are asked to forgive our fellow servants. (Mt 18:21-35)
To err is human; to forgive, divine. As children of a forgiving Father, we may be clinging on to lots of petty debts owed us over the years by those who hurt us. Stop retaining their sins and forgive them. Release their debts as our heavenly Father has released ours. We will find peace of mind and heart. Go back to childhood and consciously forgive all those who hurt you in your life, even if they are dead already. You can now choose not to cling on to revenge. Embrace your enemies and celebrate their home-coming. Heaven is the ultimate home-coming.
The late Bishop Sheen asked the U.S.A. to erect the statue of responsibility on the West Coast, since they value the statue of Liberty in New York. It would remind his countrymen that there can be no liberty without responsibility.
Freedom also implies a responsibility to share who we are and what God has invested in us with others, especially those in need. In Mt 25:31-46, Jesus speaks very clearly about this. In fact even now, we are passing judgement on ourselves by the way we follow his command to share responsibly with those in need. Who will be waiting to welcome us into paradise?
I may be free to spend or waste money that is mine. But if my brother is starving have I the right to overeat and waste food? Christian morality necessitates knowledge and understanding of laws. But it also implies respect for the rights of others.
We have a responsibility to love and share God's gifts with those less fortunate than ourselves, since all gifts are given to us by God in stewardship. Each one of us will have to account for our stewardship to the Giver. So choose now to give away all that you do not need. Many of us accumulate so much that we cannot take to the grave with us. We do not need to pass on this accumulated junk to our heirs. Consumerism and materialism are not Gospel values. Let our children earn and learn to share with others less fortunate than themselves and both they and we will have treasure in heaven.
Faith is one of those rare privileges given us by God to walk in the footsteps of Jesus as his disciples today. Faith is consciously putting on the values that Jesus gave us. The Spirit frees us to responsibly share, care for others and trust in God's providence. Tomorrow will take care of itself. (Mt. 6:25-34)
Who and what will your children choose and how much does that depend of your parenting?