Right Or Wrong: It Matters
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Communities have long equated God’s will with what they believed best for their common welfare. Sure that God loves them, they are sure that he wants what’s best for them.
To know God’s will entails either receiving God’s direct revelation or observing how life functions best and inferring God’s desire from those observations. Ancient Jews believed, as do many contemporary Jews, that God directly revealed The Law. Most Christians believe the same. Catholic teaching has emphasized a way of understanding how folks should act called natural law. This consists of observations of life that yield a set of practical best practices for living, e.g., to treat our bodies in ways that do them needless harm is wrong because healthy bodies contribute to a full human life. It seems reasonable to assume that these best practices are God’s will for us though we don’t claim that he has directly spoken of them.
Today the awareness that various successful civilizations have lived by different understandings of what God has spoken has made our contemporaries cautious about claiming to possess a uniquely true revelation. Biblical and historical research has made others slow to accept that every claim of direct revelation is accurate. A deepening understanding of how the world and people function and difficulties involved in arriving at a single norm of human thriving makes many leery of generalities about human nature.
All this being said, making moral and ethical judgments is at once a necessary and an extremely high stakes activity. The issue involved isn’t whether God will reward or punish us for our decisions. The issue is whether we will do ourselves and others good or harm, whether we’ll make our world a better or worse place to live in and to hand on to our children.
We can’t cede responsibility for our decisions to others who make judgments we simply follow. I do what I’m told is a tragically inadequate moral response; so is I do it because it feels right.
Moral judgments are inescapable for those living the way of Jesus. The wise approach them with maturity, honesty, humility and in dialogue with others whose judgment and integrity they trust.