Morality: It’s About More Than The Law
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A professional pianist once commented to me that another pianist was technically superb but possessed little feel for the music he played and would never be great. When I asked what he meant, he played two CDs for me, one after the other. The first amazed me; the second touched me. I told my friend as much but also that I couldn’t put my finger on the difference. “The first got the notes right; the second got the piece right; he felt what the composer did and you responded to it,” he said.
Once I asked a theologian how he made moral decisions. He replied that he needed three things: first, a love for the people involved, second, knowledge of the situation finally, an awareness of what God was offering in the situation. He told me how much, as a medical ethicist, he had to learn about disease and medical practice. He spoke of the many operations he had observed and the frequent hospital rounds he still made with physicians to experience the reality of their work. He also spent long hours speaking with patients about what it meant for them to be sick and under medical care. Only by doing these things did he think that he could make good judgments and offer guidance to those searching for the most loving response in difficult medical situations.
The pianist and the moral theologian had much in common. Far more than simply playing the right note or teaching the right rule both had to have an intimate knowledge and love for their discipline and their audience, they also needed a feel and love for the possibilities of the music and the person before them.
Morality is never simply a matter of placing tab “A” in slot “B.” We all know that from observing how easily we render judgments about folks we barely know and how difficult it is to make those same judgments about folks with whom we’re intimately acquainted.
Prayer is observing closely, pondering seriously, loving deeply and acting hopefully. Prayer, not calculus, is the heart of a moral decision.