Today we honour the memory of Saint Alphonsus Liguori: bishop, Doctor of the Church and founder of the Redemptorists. His writings on moral, theological, and ascetic matters had a great impact upon the Church and have survived through the years. His works on moral theology are still studied in seminaries and Catholic universities today. Saint Alphonsus died on 1st August 1787 and he was canonised in 1839. Today his spiritual sons and daughters carry on his work of preaching the Word of God. Here in England the Redemptorists are known for their publishing enterprise and for preaching missions.
Yesterday I read a few lines from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus – don’t we all on a Monday morning? Writing about free will he said: “The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think, and what you do is who you become.” We all have a choice in how we live this life. Even if we face difficult circumstances, we can choose how we react to them. So to a great extent, it’s up to us whether we are happy or unhappy in this life.
Today’s gospel teaches us that our eternal state is also a matter of our choice. In the gospel we witness the fate of those who have decided to reject God: “wailing and grinding of teeth” isn’t just a metaphor. But God didn’t just throw them like weeds into the fire—these people chose not to receive his mercy. Those who reject God use their free will, but in the wrong way. God keeps on loving them, but they have to accept that love. God doesn’t throw anyone into hell; we end up there ourselves through our choices.
We have already given our lives to God, if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t be here today; but we still have a choice, the future is filled with options. That’s the beauty of free will. We can do so much more than simply stay out of the weeds. We can become wheat that brings in a great harvest for God. As we cooperate with God’s grace, moment by moment, day by day, we can make the choices that will turn us into saints, like Saint Alphonsus Liguori. Every one of us carries the light of Christ in our hearts, but it’s up to us to choose how brightly we will let that light shine.