REFLECTION: Honing our moral sense PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 03 August 2014 14:26



AUGUST begins with the liturgical memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, an 18th century saint, lawyer, founder of the Redemptorist congregation, champion of Marian devotion, and last but not least, patron of moral theologians. We can take this occasion to remind ourselves of our grave duty always to refine our moral sense.

This moral sense is none other than the abiding awareness that all our human acts, starting with our thoughts and desires, and then our words and deeds, should be good in the sense that they ought to be inspired and oriented toward nothing less than love for God and for others.

That’s why St. Paul once said in his praise of charity (love of God): “If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

“And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

“And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.” (1 Cor 13,1-3)

No human act is good unless it begins and ends with God, and as a corollary, with others. This has to be made clear because we often supplant that truth with our own version of goodness based on practicality, popularity, and other worldly criteria that in themselves are good, but good always in relation to God.

In other words, goodness of our human acts does not depend on us alone. It depends fundamentally and indispensably on God. We cannot help but think theologically if we are truly concerned about the morality of our human acts.

That’s because more than just depending on our own individual consciences and collective consensus, we need to depend first on faith, the gift God gives to us to start sharing who he is and what he has, since we are his image and likeness and adopted children of his, expected to share in the very life of God. Faith leads to charity.

Our thinking, judging and reasoning should be inspired by faith. Actually, we cannot help but somehow color our thinking by some faith, whether it is the true faith, or mere superstition or man-made philosophies and ideologies that while containing some good and truth, cannot cover the whole reality of our humanity and of the world.

This is because our intelligence and will are always in need of some basis and reference for their operations. They cannot auto-generate truth. They can only receive, reflect and develop truth whose very foundation is God, the Creator of all things, the very foundation of reality, and the Truth himself.

Given the current secularized world culture, where God hardly has any place and where what is considered good is simply derived from some political consensus, we need to make a tremendous effort to recover the true place God occupies in our life and in our affairs.

What is needed is a conscious effort to make God and his love and truth the beginning and end of our thoughts, desires, words and actions. We cannot take this duty for granted anymore.

We have to be careful with the thinking that as long as we are doing “good,” we are actually doing things for God. This principle has to be understood well. It can only work properly if what we are doing and the ultimate motive of our actions conform to the law of God, to his will, his truth and love.

But many times, we can cover our bad, selfish motives under the guise of some externally good acts. We can be quite generous in giving alms, for example, but not out of love for God and for others, but rather for gaining fame, honor, privileges, etc. This is not a moral act, because it is not done out of love for God.

Even worse is when we don’t make any effort to know the will of God for us in any given moment. We just presume that whatever we think is good is also what God wants of us at that moment. This is a dangerous presumption.

We need to make a conscious effort to get in touch with God, because only then can we fairly think that we are moral in our actuations. That’s why we need to pray, to act and live in his presence always.