Yet there still is required a daily renewal to repair the shortcomings of our mortal nature, and whatever degree of progress has been made there is no one who should not be more advanced. All must therefore strive to ensure that on the day of redemption no one may be found in the sins of his former life.
St. Leo, the Great; Sermo 6 de Quadragesima
15See, I have today set before you life and good, death and evil.j 16If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I am giving you today, loving the LORD, your God, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and ordinances, you will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.k
23Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily* and follow me.n 24For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.o 25What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?
I am reading the book "Roman Pilgrimage, The Station Churches" by George Weigel for part of my Lenten reflections. This is a good book. I used it last year and gained quite a bit from it and recommend it to anyone trying to gain insight in a stronger faith.. Well in today's entry Mr. Weigel writes that as Israel passed from a slave people to a free people and while they journeyed through the desert after leaving Egypt and passing through the Red Sea, they had to rid themselves of some of their former bad habits that they developed whilst being slaves. He lists those as
- the habit of self-worship;
- the habit of bad morals.
Or, as he writes as Blessed John Henry Newman put it
- from shadowy false gods to the true God;
- from the fantasy of self-worship to the truth of worshipping the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit;
- from the illusion of the autonomous, self-defining self to the truth of the self-giving self.
These quotes from today's readings and from Mr. Weigel's excellent book serve to outline the contrast between what is good and right and the overall philosophy of many people in today's society in the United States. Our country has gravitated to a philosophy of personal morality and relativism which generally states, "if it feels good, do it." As a society, we have turned our backs on the very sensible moral code, one that has been (as St. Pope John Paul II puts it) "built into men and women from the very beginning."
I think in this point the Church is right. Humankind has the innate coding of a moral behavior which is effectively right. It is not the code that allows one to decide for itself what is right. Rather, it is like a natural law that is right for all peoples. Why else would nearly all societies in the world have a "law" against murder, adultery, theft, and so on. Here in the US we say that it's OK for one to selectively choose from the cafeteria line those actions which we believe are correct, e.g., unrestricted sex, abortion, and everything is fine. But then, on the other hand, we continue to express moral certainties about murder and theft. In essence, we glorify the self against the overwhelming evidence that there is something greater than us motivating the activities of life here. In essence, we have made ourselves and our pleasure GOD.
It is true that humankind has been given the freedom of choice and that the Divine Creator will not interfere with that freedom. So, folks can decide to ignore the commandments outlined in the many religious traditions. But to do so imperils the long term likelihood of eternal happiness and ultimate freedom as illustrated in the texts quoted at the beginning of today's entry.
To correct this issue and probably many of the societal and political issues of our day, we ought to re-consider this laissez-faire approach to morality, return to the natural law absolutes, and re-aim for the target of "self-giving self." We ought to look out for others first. We ought to re-direct our political will to confirming the natural law and consider helping the less fortunate as our primary obligation. And, we need to recognize that this will be a daily effort in forgiveness, reconciliation, and conversion.