Joining The Moral Quest
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Malachi 3:19-20

“You know what I can’t stand about Christians,” a friend told me, “they’re so certain that whatever they decide is moral. They never wonder whether they’re wrong. They’re convinced that they know God’s mind and every decent person should think what they think. Even if you get them to admit that they’ve been wrong in the past on things like slavery, religious freedom or women’s rights, they give the excuse that they were just being people of their times. Why can’t they admit that they have to figure things out just like the rest of us?”

There are many Church activities over which we laity have little control. We have a lot to say, however, in the Church’s public moral voice. What we do and say about moral issues often carries more actual weight than pronouncements from Rome or diocesan offices. People may rant about or praise the latest word from on high but they decide what weight that word actually carries when they see how the Catholic next door Catholic puts it into practice.

The truth is that most of us are pretty good seat-of-our-pants moralists. We generally have a clear grasp of the good and bad things we can do in life. We’re also very aware that circumstances play a huge part in morality. We know that deciding good and bad involves more than measuring an action against an abstract rule.

Here’s where our power lies. Honesty about our moral quandaries as well as our moral certainties and a willingness to grant the assumption of good conscience to those who disagree goes a long way to acknowledging that we too put our ethical pants on one leg at a time. We have much more credibility conversing than lecturing.

Nobody asks the laity to hand down moral answers. That’s an advantage. Shoulder to shoulder with everyone else we discover the best way to live in our complex and murky world. We contribute more to the common journey by joining the search for the best path than by claiming to be the tour guide.