MORAL THEOLOGY (Notes of 2011)
Situating human dignity from reflections on the two stories of creation
The two stories of creation: what their unity might tell us about ourselves
- The early chapters of the book of Genesis—in the Bible—tells us a lot about the idea of “origins”. Of course the texts are not modern scientific texts—they are theological and spiritual reflections on the beginnings. What is interesting is that the texts speak not just of how things started but also why they started—why they exist.
- There are two stories of creation. Gn 1/1 – 2,4a is about the story of “seven days”. Gn 2/4b – 3,24 is the story “in the garden”. In your studies of the Old Testament, you have learned that these two stories were written by two different literary traditions—and most scholars think that the seven-day story is from the “P” tradition while the other story is “J” and maybe with “E”. We are not studying how the Old Testament was written, so this is not central to our discussions here.
- In the story of seven days in Gn 1/26-28, the human being is human—man and woman. The human being appears right after the appearance of the animals. The animals are placed in different locations: sea, air and earth. In the garden story, Gn 2/7.21-23, the human—this time man—is created first, then the animals come next. Among all the living creatures, the woman is the last to come forth. She is the only one who is not taken from soil. She is pulled out from man.
- The seven day story wants to answer the question of “the absence of God”. The garden story is a way of answering the question of “human liberty”.
- Let us look at the question of human liberty. The garden story is so interested in human life and death and how human freedom has its role. The story faces a mystery: the mystery of the human being, freedom and choices. In the center of the story is a “break” or “intrigue”. The serpent invites to a choice contrary to the original idea of the serpent—the human does not really become “like God”.
- Cracks happen in the garden story. There is a crack between the human and nature—it is now painful to cultivate and make a living. There is a crack between the human and the animals—an animal can dominate the human (see Gn 4,7). There is a crack between man and woman. The man dominates and the woman gives birth with pain.
- But there is hope. It is the destiny of all of us. The garden story shows a future. The cracks may have happened in the beginning, but they are not necessarily the start of all.
- At the very start, there exists a primordial link between man (adam) and earth (adamah). There is the link between man and woman—the woman is pulled from Adam’s rib.
- The cracks are results of human liberty. In Gn 3/19-20, after God’s judgment, there is suffering alright, but there is also life: work for the man and birth-giving for the woman.
- The mystery developed in Gn 2-3 is relevant about man and world. The story is ''anthropocentric''—it is centered on man.
- Notice that God is not so much shown—God is not in the “limelight”. God “self-erases” in front of the creatures. In fact, whenever we think of God we see God with human features. God works like a potter. God takes a walk in the garden. But God is also one who offers liberty.
- In the seven-day story, we ask why God is absent. In this story God is subject of verbs of action. This story is “God-centered”. Genesis 1 faces the mystery which is just as real as human liberty. It faces the reality of the presence of an absent God.
- Now, notice that both seven-day story and garden-story are put together. Why? Well, bible scholars might see it this way: the texts were put together after the Babylon exile. It was a pinful moment for the Hebrews. The Covenant with God was experienced as having failed. It became important for the Hebrews to see again their relationship with God. Then, because of the domination of the culture and religion of the Babylonians (and later Persians), it became important for the Hebrews to ask again about the world and God.
- So the story of seven days might have been inspired by Babylonian culture with its glorification of the god Mardouk. But the Hebrews had to makes clear who their God was. In the start was God—Elohim. He was God—unique. The seven-day story was not interested—not so much—in the human creature. It was really about God.
- It is in the garden story where the human creature becomes “hero”. God, the unique “Other” fashions an other—someone who will be just like God himself: his image and likeness (see Gn 1,26). God is always subject of the verb “to create” and creature. In the case of creating the human being, the verb “to create” is repeated three times (see Gn 1/27).
- The seventh day is a day of rest—Sabbath. God now is now “absent”. The other of God—who is the image and likeness of God—will do the same, also take a rest. The human duplicates each week the day of rest. Whereas God rested only once, and it was after his work. The human does it each week. There is a radical difference, again, between God-creator and human-creature. The human does the day of rest each week because the work of the human continues.
- Human rest—maybe you want to call it “siesta”—is a rest for starting again. If God is absent from the scene of the world, he takes rest to show the world! He is absent to show his work (see Psalm19). He takes a rest to show also the human creature who, in turn, observes the Sabbath.
- In conclusion, we can therefore say that both stories are about the deep questions of God’s absence and human liberty. The stories give us an idea of the link that unites Creator with creature. God takes absence for the human to show forth. God takes absence for his image and likeness to emerge. How will the human deal with this wonderful dignity? Here is the question of liberty.
Re-claiming our dignity through the perfect image of God
Image of God
- In the Old Testament (OT) we read that there was a prohibition against making images of God. It was prohibited to make anything that will represent God. The prohibition was a way of combatting idolatry. God had to preserve his “beyond” features—that God was really beyond everything made by people. God could not be put in a box.
- So in the OT we see that God never showed his glory by way of golden calves and other figures made by people (see Ex.32; 1Kg.12/26-33). God’s glory was seen in creation (see for example Hos.8/5-6; Wis.13; see also Rom.1/19-23). This was not just a question of how God looked. It was not just a matter of appearances. It was more importantly a matter of liberation.
- God, in the OT, was a liberating God. If God was in a box—if God was made by people—then he cannot be a liberating God. God, to be a true liberator, had to be independent of what people made. God had to be free and beyond human control so that he could really liberate people.
- Now, if we say that the human person is “image of God”, are we not doing idolatry? No. Why? The OT tells us that when God made the human being, God took the initiative to make this creature his image and likeness. The image was therefore “God-made”, not “man-made”. The human person can consider himself/herself as God’s image because it was God who said so. The status of being “image of God” was granted by God. We do not make ourselves “image of God”.
- The fact that we are “image of God” allows us to make a claim about it. We can say yes, indeed, we are image of God. We have the right and duty to make the claim.
- According to Gen.1/26-29, we have a specific status. We can rule over other creatures. We can “dominate”. In Psalm 8 we, humans, are identified with glory and splendor…just like God. Of course, we are a bit inferior to the Creator—we are creatures. Still, it is such an honor to be “image of God”.
- Before we continue, we need to look at this word “dominate”. The notion of “domination” is quite different from our idea of just swallowing the whole earth. Domination means, in the sense given by Genesis, limited domination. Domination must be regulated. It is domination of the “king”—a steward of the people. In creation, the human is steward of all creation. This is “domination” in its right perspective.
- Now, as we said earlier, the first creation story of the seven days showed God as the central character. Suddenly God steps aside—he goes to rest—to give way to the human person. So the second creation story has the human as central character. In a way, we see immediately the behavior of God—God takes the steps “going down” so that we, humans, can rise! We now have the chance to be stewards!
- But, as Genesis shows, we failed. We “disobeyed”. We have not been faithful to our status as “image of God”. Here comes the New Testament (NT). Jesus Christ is now center of the picture. Again in the NT we see how we are “image of God”. This theme is repeated (see for example 1Co11/7; Jn3/9). What is fascinating is that Jesus himself tells this to us: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt.5/48). Jesus recognizes that, indeed, we are “image of the Father”. But it does not seem to penetrate our understanding. We resist. We like to be something else. Does Jesus give up?
- No, and the NT sees an insight into the fidelity of Jesus. Jesus did not come simply as a “delegate” of God. In Jesus we see God. Jesus Christ has become the human face of God. He is the reflection of God’s glory, as the gospel of John would say it (see Jn.17/5 and 17/24). “Whoever has seen me”, said Jesus, “has seen the Father” (Jn.14/9). Paul saw insight into this. He wrote that Jesus Christ is the perfect image of God (see 2Co.3/14-4/4).
- What does this tell us—a least in relation to our course in moral theology? It may be hard to see how we are “image of God”. Where do we look? Do we have any way of finding out how we really are “image of God”? Yes, there is a way. We are assured that we are “image of God” thanks to Christ.
- Paul puts it in a direct way. Paul wrote that God had a purpose. It is God’s purpose that we “…be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom.8/29). God sent his Son so that we be conformed to him, the perfect image of God. We can re-claim who we really are as “image of God” because Jesus has made it clear to us. By conforming to Jesus, we arrive at being truly who we are.
- By conforming to Jesus Christ we re-claim our dignity and the dignity of all humans. Jesus Christ is our path to re-claiming our rightful status as “image of God”. We can recognize our dignity in conforming to Christ. We transform, yes, and we dare say that we “transfigure” into becoming true copies of Jesus Christ who is the perfect image of God. Paul wrote that the Lord Jesus Christ will change our lowly body…which is another way of saying that he will “transfigure us”. We will be like Jesus in glory! (See Ph.3/21)
- Just think about it, it is such a fantastic insight!
Human Dignity is "Inalienable"
The notion of Human Dignity is inalienable:
- Human dignity is from God. God created us with dignity. How can we say this? We are created with dignity because we are made in God’s own image and likeness. This is what defines our dignity…we are made in God’s image and likeness (Gn 1:26-27). The human person is most obvious image and likeness of God among all creatures. Human dignity is not based on any quality that we might have: Am I handsome? Am I rich? Am I healthy? Etc. Human dignity is not even given by the laws of our countries. We do not need the constitutions, for example, to have dignity. Human dignity is not based on our achievements or accomplishments: Did I finish a diploma? Did I get a good job? Did I write a book? Our human dignity is inalienable.
- What does this word “inalienable” mean? Just look at the word. It has a root word “alien”. To be alien means to be foreign…it is to be “another” and to be “someone else”. An alien “does not belong”. But the word “inalienable” also has the prefix “in”, and this signifies “not”. This means that when something is “inalienable”, it cannot be “another”. It cannot be “foreign”.
- Human dignity is not foreign, it is no another, it is “inalienable”. Human dignity is an essential part of each of us, it can never be separated from us. It cannot be something foreign to us. It cannot be something “another” from us. Our dignity as humans can never be separated from our other aspects.
- This belief in human dignity is fundamental in Christian morality. Human dignity is basic in Catholic moral principles.
- Pause for a while and see how serious this is. In front of someone—another person—and with the belief in human dignity, we come to a realization that this person in front of us is image and likeness of God—whoever this person is.
- Human dignity is due to our relationship with God. We did not earn this dignity. It is really what we are! We are dignified creatures of God. The reality of our human dignity is really based on revelation.
- The biblical vision is our source of revelation. But then of course, the Church herself makes reflections on revelation—the Church does her “theology” or study. Over the centuries, the Church adapts different languages and forms of expressions.
- Look at one verse. Vatican II had its document, GS #27: “Any human society, if it is to be well-ordered and productive, must lay down as a foundation this principle, namely, that every human being is a person…precisely because s/he is a person, s/he has rights and obligations flowing directly and simultaneously from her/his very nature”. What is the Vatican II saying here? It says that we are PERSONS—humans—who have rights and obligations. These rights and obligations are inalienable because they are directly flowing from the fact that we are persons. It is incorrect that human rights are given more to some people and less to others. No. Each and every person must be treated as person—as fellow human. Therefore, rights and obligations can never be separated—inalienable—from persons.
- Here is a verse from the encyclical Pacem in Terris, #9: “It is a question, rather, of building a world where all persons, no matter what race, religion or nationality, can live a fully human life, freed from servitude imposed on them…; a world where freedom is not an empty word and where the poor Lazarus can sit down at the same table with the rich”. Remember the story of Lazarus and the rich man? The rich man never paid attention to the sick Lazarus.
- Here is a document from the American Bishops’ Conference Economic Justice for All, #1: “The basis for all that the Church believes about the moral dimensions of economic life is…the sacredness of human beings. The dignity of the human person, realized in community with others, is the criterion against which all aspects of economic life must be measured”.
- Here is a verse from Pope JPII in his encyclical Centisimus Annus #11: “The human person is the clearest reflection of God’s presence in the world; all of the Church’s work in pursuit of both justice and peace is designed to protect and promote the dignity of every person. For each person not only reflects God, but is the expression of God’s creative work and the meaning of Christ’s redemptive ministry”. The Pope recalls the Genesis notion of “image of God” which is the basis of our dignity. The Pope adds his reflection coming from the New Testament. Not only are we “image of God”, we are also the very reason why Christ came!
- We can seek around the internet and books to find expressions of the Church regarding the dignity of the human person. Just keep in mind the fact that, for the Church, human dignity is rooted in revelation and it is inalienable.
Self-portrait of Jesus: Beatitudes
The Beatitudes: Self-portrait of Jesus (Mt 5/ 1-12)
- We started the semester by saying that we are “image of God”. We might not be so convinced of this. We might even resist. Yet, God loves us, he sends us his Son—his perfect image. By looking at Jesus, by following Jesus, we discover the perfect image of God and we see ourselves reflected in that perfect image. The Beatitudes can give us a portrait—a self-protrait of the perfect image of God.
- The Kingdom of Heaven is like a field with a treasure. One finds the treasure/ sells all he owns and buys the field (see Mt 13/ 44). There is another parable in Matthew. It is about the pearl of great value. A man sells all he has to purchase this pearl (13/45-46). The Beatitudes are like this treasure or this pearl.
- They are like the treasure of the Good News.
- By the light of the Beatitudes, all in life seems to be enlightened—in bright light. Jesus explains his mission. He gives us the sense of his miracles and parables. If the Beatitudes live inside of us, they will give light to the steps we make in life.
- Take any beatitude. “Happy the meek”, for example. What could Jesus mean by “meek”? Come to me, Jesus would say, and I will teach you to be meek and humble of heart…put yourself in my “school” (see Mt 11/ 28-29). We see the meekness of Jesus himself as he comes near anyone who suffers. Up the cross, when Jesus himself is in great suffering, we see him meek—so meek.
- What could Jesus mean by “poor”. Happy the poor. Foxes have holes. Birds up the air have nests. Jesus does not even have a stone for a pillow (see Mt 8/ 20).
- The Beatitudes…they really look like the “self-portrait” of Jesus. One by one, each Beatitude describes characteristics of Jesus.
- Seek Jesus, contemplate Jesus, follow the footsteps of Jesus, come close to Jesus. To know Jesus, we can learn from the Beatitudes. In seeing Jesus act and speak, we can understand why he does that and why he says that. It is Jesus the meek, Jesus the persecuted, Jesus who mourns, Jesus who works for peace. By looking at Jesus, we learn too how to live the Beatitudes.
Introducing the Beatitudes
Introducing the Beatitudes of Matthew : Mt 4/23 - 5/12
- The whole section on the Beatitudes is inserted in a narration of the “Sermon on the Mountain” (Mtt.5-7).
- Jesus, seated, teaches on a mountain. Later Jesus will be up a mountain again—during the Transfiguration. Mountain reminds us of Moses and Mt. Sinai. Jesus then goes down to do healings (Mt 8-9). Jesus speaks and acts. Action and teaching are never separated. Jesus… proclaims the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven and he heals the sick and infirmity of the people (see Mt 4/23 and 9/35).
- Crowds follow Jesus (4, 23-25). They are from all over the place…and at the end of the Sermon on the Mount they are impressed by the teaching of Jesus. As they follow Jesus they might be seeing some healings: a leper is cleansed (see for example 8/1-2).
- The Beatitudes focus on the Kingdom of Heaven. This theme dominates the Sermon on the Mountain. In showing the Kingdom, Jesus accomplishes the Law and the Prophets without abolishing anything (see Mt 7/12). The whole sermon is concluded by the two paths: (see Mt 7, 13-14). Follow the narrow path. This image is again repeated, but this time with the image of two houses: on built on sand, the other built on rock (Mt 7/24-27). We are to choose.
- In Matthew the series of the Beatitudes is “beginning” of the discourses of Jesus on the mountain. They serve as “beginnings” of the Sermon on the Mountain. What does “beginning” remind us of? It can remind us of the book of Genesis. The word of God is at the beginning of all creation (Gn 1). The word of God says and does what it says. At the end of each stage of creation God sees what he has just created and sees that it is “good”. The Beatitudes serve as a kind of “creation” story of a different kind—creation of a new way of living.
- There is another “beginning” in the Bible. This time it is the covenant concluded in Sinai (see Ex 19-24). It takes place in a mountain. Moses is sitting with the elders…which is similar to Jesus assembled with his Apostles.
- The first phrases of the covenant in Sinai are the Ten Words or “Decalogue” (see Ex 20). The Decalogue begins with a small comment: “I made you leave Egypt, from the house of slavery”. God reminds the people of Israel how he liberated them. Exodus was a marvelous account.
- Now, with Jesus on the mountain, it is not so much about marvelous events of the past. It is now a declaration of the Beatitudes. It is a new way of “giving birth” to a new people. It is addressed to all…and not just to Israel.
- Let us look at the text of Matthew. The word “happy” is mentioned nine times. Does it not look like incomplete—nine? Well, at least when compared with the Decalogue, Jesus has “nine” and the Decalogue has “ten”.
- But the beatitudes end with an injunction in v. 12 : “Rejoice and be glad” which is another way of saying ''be happy”. The meaning of “beatitude” is now so clear. Those who Jesus calls as “happy” are those who respond to his call for a different way of living. To live according to the path of the Beatitudes is to rejoice and be glad. This is a vocation! To be happy is a vocation—a destiny one is called to.
- This is what is strange in the beatitudes. Imagine being called to be “poor” or the “mourn”. And the poor and the mourning are said to be “happy”!
- Note that during these last two verses, (v. 11-12), Jesus talks to a “you”—in the plural. While addressing this “you” Jesus also talks about himself: “on my account” (v.11). The secret of the Beatitudes takes place in the relation between Jesus and those to whom he speaks. Rejoicing and gladness crown this relation with Jesus—living on his account.
- Two verses of the Beatitudes (v. 3 and 10) refer to the present, and both refer to the Kingdom of heaven: “theirs is the Kingdom...”. The other verses (v. 4-9), use the verb in the future: “they will inherit…they will be consoled”. The Beatitudes are declarations that have value for the present and it this present opens up an future—something to look forward to.
- The Beatitudes are presented, also, in a constant way: “Blessed—or Happy—are those…”. Those who are happy are marked by conditions they in: “poor in spirit”, “those who mourn”, those who are meek”, they are “pure in heart”, they are “hungry” and “thirsty”. They are “merciful” and they are “peacemakers”. They are “persecuted”.
- In the Old Testament, prophets would speak of the reverse: “Woe to you…” (see for example Am 5/18 and 6/1; Is 5/8-25 and 10/1-4). The prophets stigmatized those who did injustice and the prophets announced their fate.
- In a way, the Beatitudes of Jesus have something prophetic in them. But Jesus does not announce “woes” but happiness. Strange is that what appears as “woe” to the world is happiness for Jesus. To be persecuted on account of Jesus is a “woe” to many people. But not for Jesus. It is cause of happiness. It is possible to rejoice and be glad when attached to Jesus.
- Who exactly is Jesus talking about? The four Beatitudes at the start is addressed to people who “lack” something: poor, humiliated, meek, mourning, hungry and thirsty. They all revolve around a central lack: lack of justice.
- The next beatitudes still center on justice, but they focus on ''engagement'': engage in mercy, engage in purity of heart, engage in working for peace, engage in being persecuted in the struggle for justice. Under different angles, we can say that Beatitudes declare who are happy: those for whom justice (of the Kingdom—see Mt 5/20) is a major concern. If the prophets of the past denounced injustice, Jesus today announces that happy are those who place central concern for justice in their lives.
- The paradox of the Beatitudes touches us intimately too. The paradox signifies the way we relate with God. By confidently living according to the Beatitudes we are given the promise of joy and gladness—happiness—with Jesus.
- Jesus gives us promises of happiness, the Beatitudes. In the heart of these is living “correctly” in relationship with God and with others.
- If we say that God is Creator, we also mean that everything in his works is “just” by way of birth and origin. If there is birth, if there is life—and by extension healing—there is justice. Justice is a way of promoting life. If there is death and division, giving wounds and harm, it is contrary to the goodness given in creation, and it is “unjust”. There is injustice. There is something “diabolical”—which literally means “source of dispersion”.
- If we say that God is love, we affirm that each person—no matter the age or ethnic members or income or gender—each person is beloved by God. God is love, therefore God loves each of us. So it is just to forgive. There is justice here. It is just to respect the dignity of each one. Even the person with abominable actions deserve the respect of his/her dignity. The inverse is quite unacceptable. What idea of justice is there if we say that God crushes people and sends them to a place of eternal torture. This is not a God of love.
- Jesus invites us to better know God and to follow the path of God. Jesus invites us to have an experience of God—be inspired by God and be “shaped” by God, like the potter and the clay. Jesus calls us to live in justice—which is a hope, a research and an opening up to God.
- Before we “engage” maybe we need to experience what it means to be loved by God. Before we forgive, maybe we need to recognize how we are forgiven by God. Before we speak about loving others, we might need to recognize how God has loved us from the start of life. In the “Our Father”, Jesus shows this clearly. “Forgive us our offences as we forgive those who offend against us” (Mat 6/12).
- We shall have our hunger and thirst for justice—and it is a justice that first of all goes beyond us and precedes us: it is from God, the God of life and love. If we shall desire fighting against injustice, shall we recognize the justice in us granted by God. We are given life and love.
Brief meditations on the (Matt) Beatitudes
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. The kingdom belongs to them now, right now. To be poor in spirit is to be with total trust in God. God is the main wealth. The poor in spirit recognizes absolute need for God. To live with “spiritual poverty” is to live with childlike trust in God. Therese of Lisieux always said this in her writings. Even if she would fall asleep in her prayers, she would think she is asleep on the laps of God. There is joy that comes from this living in this poverty of spirit. Happy are we when the spirit is poor. We are ready to bear life’s conditions for God's sake.
- Blessed (happy) are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. To be meek is to bend down—it is to recognize what is real. It is considered stupid to be meek when in the heart of society—we would rather show strength. To be meek however is not to be shy. As we just said, it is to bend down and say yes to what is real and revealed. Is not Jesus "meek and humble of heart"? He is not shy. To be meek, in the sense of the Beatitudes, is to have courage and strength. It is to have courage and strength to live the values of the kingdom. It is to have courage and strength to stand up and speak against injustice. So strength or courage exercised in a meek or humble way is a kingdom value that we ought to seek. We will be blessed and happy when we discover how to exercise courage and strength in a meek and humble way.
- Blessed (happy) are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Why do we mourn? The prophets in the Old Testament mourned for the injustices. Jesus knows how to mourn. When Jerusalem refused to accept him, he mourned (see Lk 13/34-36). Jesus mourned when he learned of the death of his friend Lazarus (see John 11/36). In Ignatius retreats, we ask for the grace to mourn. We mourn because we see people suffer, because we see sin, because we see injustice and because we see how Jesus is set aside. We are happy in this mourning. We are clear about our compassion and concern.
- Blessed (happy) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. We are called to recognize right relationships with truth and justice, right relationship with God and others. This might mean getting ridiculed, persecuted and even killed for what is right, true and just. Jesus says we get happiness here because we are on the right side. Hunger and thirst for justice implies a strong and continuous desire to grow morally personal, sure, but also morally social/interpersonal. We want that others live a just life too. It is a happy task—we are glad to do it.
- Blessed (happy) are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Remember the mercy of the Father waiting for the prodigal) son to return? Remember the forgiveness demanded from Peter—not just seven but seventy seven times? Mercy is cause for liberation. When there is mercy, we allow the future to continue. We do not imprison. We seek to be merciful and it makes us happy because it will keep our hearts free of un-forgiveness. Notice that when we do not know how to forgive, we are unhappy. Blessed (happy) are the pure in heart, for they will see God. The pure in heart are clear with what they want—their motives are pure. There are no “hidden agenda” in what they say or do. This is happiness, right? There is nothing hidden, nothing to protect from the eyes of others…it is transparency. It is happiness that does not have to engage in manipulation and control.
- Blessed (happy) are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. “Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace." The "peacemaker" not only lives in peace with others but also does his/her best to preserve peace. He/she seeks to work for peace in the family, neighborhood, workplace etc. Peace is building bridges, not walls. It is cooperation in healing and “co-redeeming” with Jesus.
- "Blessed (happy) are the persecuted for holiness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of slander against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice for your reward is great in heaven; they persecuted the prophets before you in the very same way." They are happy now—right now. Christianity was once an outlawed religion. Christians were slandered, persecuted, jailed and put to death. Today there are people who work for justice and righteousness. Are they not also persecuted. But theirs is the kingdom now—right now. Many are persecuted for speaking up for the poor and against injustices. They are happy doing it.
What beatitude is strong in you? Which beatitude do you wish to grow more in you?
Introducing the Beatitudes of Luke (Lk 6/20-26)
- Jesus, in the account of Luke offers four “happy”. Happy are the poor, the hungry, those who cry and those who are excluded. To the “happy” correspond those who “unhappy”: the rich, the full, the laughing, and those with good reputation.
- In Luke we note that Jesus comes to bring the good news to the poor. The poor are happy because the Reign of God is for them, now. The Son of God is at their side. He is one with them.
- Luke introduces this “now” in the Beatitudes. The reason to be happy lies in the future—there is something to look forward to. “You will be filled…you will laugh”. The Kingdom is with Jesus himself, he should know what he is talking about. Jesus “raises his eyes to the disciples” (v. 20) and he sees the development the sharing that John has already preached (see Lk 3/ 11; see also Ac 2/ 44-45 ; 4/ 32).
- Those who are persecuted now will have their day in heaven. They can jump for joyeven at the moment of persecution. They can see that their fate is very much like the fate of the true prophets of the past. Those prophets of the past were persecuted because they denounced the use of religion to hide injustice.
- God is really at the side of the poor. We can look at one text of Luke for illustration. In Ac 5/ 41, after being beaten up, the disciples “leave the Sanhedrin full of joy”.
- What about the rich and those who are filled and those who laugh? Their consolation is now. It will pass away. They forget that God alone is the solid foundation. Again we can look at Acts regarding the story of Herod of Agrippa (see Ac 12/ 21-23).
Our Father and Moral Theology: Mtt 6/9-13
OUR FATHER and Moral Theology:
Meditating on Matthew 6/9-13.
- In more recent times there has been a shift in approaching moral theology. In more “ancient times” moral theology was done with the use of “manuals”. There were sets of rules and principles to accept and follow. It may have worked at that time. But more and more, today, moral theology relies a lot on the Bible.
- It is possible to welcome the Our Father—in the Sermon on the Mountain of Matthew—as a big help in inspiring our reflections in moral theology. Vatican II would not disagree especially since it gave a new emphasis on the role of the Scriptures in theology.
- Remember that story of someone who asked Jesus about the most important commandment? Jesus replied: “You will love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul and with your whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is similar to it, Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22/36-39). This has become basic to moral living. Love for God and neighbor allows us to live freely and responsibly. It allows us to fight against injustice, against the darkness in our lives, and try to attain holiness. Just look well into this response of Jesus. There is love of God and love of neighbor. Both are in the Our Father. The Our Father has two major parts. The first part deals with our link with God. The second part deals with our link with one another.
- Jesus assumed that these two commandments—love of God and love of neighbor—are fundamental to correct living. Now, we realize that as we read the gospels and other writing of the New Testament, we realize how Jesus accomplishes the love of God and neighbor. Jesus, the perfect image of God, shows us the way through his own self!
- Let us look in the gospels and see a possible text that can help us organize our moral life. This is what the Our Father can do.
- The Our Father, of course, is a prayer that Jesus taught. It is a prayer addressed to “Our Father”. But notice that it supposes something about ourselves—we who pray. It shows that we are in search of God. We extend ourselves to God, we reach out to God. We are like pilgrims towards the Father—moving out of the darkness in our lives. So, shall we try looking at the prayer—with the view of helping our reflections in moral theology. How can the prayer help us appreciate a “good life”?
Our Father in heaven
- Anyone can read the text. But it is in faith that the text becomes a prayer. We call God “Abba”—Father—as taught to us by Jesus. In Pauls’ letters, we are told that we call God “Abba” thanks to the Holy Spirit. We call out “Abba”. This Father is ours. You, him, her, they, I—all of us praying call out to our Father. What does this tell us? It tells us that we are all together, assembled, as God’s children. We are a family. We are brothers and sisters to one another. This is a basic moral principle. We have links to each other—we are responsible for each other as family. In modern language the word “solidarity” is often used. We are “solid” to each one. If you want to recall the class of last semester, we can say that we are go’el to each one. As go’el, just like Christ, we have the responsibility to make sure that our brother and sister is redeemed from the hold of darkness in his or her life!.
- We can add that in the Our Father God is considered someone near us. God is family—and familiar—to us.
- Yet, God is also distant and cannot be put in a box. Why? We are led back to the reality that we are creatures and God is our Creator. Our Father, he is in heaven. God wanted us to be his image and likeness. We know how hard-headed we are regarding this. Each of us—man, woman—God created. It is God, a Father to us but also in heaven…the Creator of all.
- As creatures, therefore, we cannot assume the role of Creator. We are not on top of the world looking down on creation. We are stewards of the created world. We have the role of “dominating”—that is, the role of making sure the created world is not violated. We make sure that the created world revered.
- So, moral theology finds a big help in this verse. Moral theology sees in the verse a vision about us—family—rooted in the mystery of God who is Father and Creator.
- After this verse (“Our Father in heaven”) three requests are made. a. Holy be your name b. Your Kingdom come c. Your will be done. (verse 9b-10a) But…let us jump first to a later verse.
Let us first jump a bit on a later verse. “…on earth as it is in heaven”
- Why make this jump? The three requests are “enclosed” by the two verses of 9a to 10a. Bible experts speak of “inclusion”. We need not deal with this technique here.
- The expression “…on earth as it is in heaven” can be understood as “distributive”. Earth does not exclude heaven. Heaven does not exclude earth. If there are the three requests, they are to be justly distributed on earth and in heaven.
- Now, if we look at the three requests-- a. Holy be your name b. Your Kingdom come c. Your will be done—they are in the passive voice. (Here we must be thankful to teachers who taught us grammar. Active voice goes this way: “The boy kicks the ball”. Passive voice goes this way: “The ball is kicked by the boy”.) So if the three requests are in the passive voice, then they suppose that God is the main realizer of the requests. The requests happen because of God’s own initiative. We pray that God takes the initiative to reply to the three requests—and that they be realizedeverywhere. “Everywhere” means that the name, the kingdom and the will of the Father be realized not just in where the Father is—in heaven—but also where we are—on earth.
- Think about this link between heaven and earth. The prayer does not separate them. Each of us knows that the Father respects us and our freedom. He will not movewithout our free consent. Sure, he is to make the initiative—but it presupposes that we really want it; we say “yes” to the Father. So the prayer includes “earth”—our consent. Heaven does not move without the earth consenting.
- In this participation—our participation—moral theology finds its place. We ask our Father; we make requests to our Father.
- Now we can move to the three requests.
Holy be your name
- From the very start of the prayer we turn to our Father. The first request, “holy be your name”, repeats this turning to our Father. We are facing the Father, and in so doing we request his holiness—we request that his name be truly holy. We request the glorification of his name. This glorification can only happen from God himself. How can we glorify God? What is in us that can give glory to God? What can we bring to God from us that will make God holy? Nothing. We are small creatures.
- There is one possibility, however. We can “borrow” from God (taking cue from John of the Cross): Father we borrow your holiness so we can request that you be holy! The holiness that we attach to our Father is from our Father himself. In this way we see ourselves participating in glorifying God. It is possible that the holiness and glory of God be manifest.
- What does it mean “borrowing” from God? In the Old Testament, there is one major way of glorifying God. This is by obedience to the Law. Obedience to the precepts of the Torah gives glory to God. The Torah comes from God (through Moses). In a way, by obedience to the Laws, the people of Israel can live with justice and peace in the land.
- The prophets have shown ways of “borrowing” too. They announced that God sanctified himself as the just judge in the eyes of the nations. The people of Israel have consistently been called to live in justice and to centralize their lives in confidence in God. Live according to the justice of God, and this will give glory to God.
- The New Testament has its texts too. Paul would say, “Glorify God in your body” (1Cor. 6/20). Paul presented to the community of Corinth the task of solidarity and community which become a service for the glory of God himself (2Cor.8/19). So by being one—as family and as community, thanks to the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of Jesus—we glorify God!
- Since the ancient Church times, Christians believed that the glory of God is in the living human person. It is in the living and vibrantly living human being that we have a vision of God! (This is an insight of Ireneus, a Church Father).
- So how does this link with moral theology? The moral life of the human person owes a lot from God—the commandments and the family-solidarity of the community. God has made it possible for us to live coherently, decently and morally. He has given the Law in the Old Testament and, more definitively, he has given us his Son, as attested by the New Testament. In our moral life we glorify God. The request: “holy be your name” tells us that we wish to live good…we wish to live correctly…because in so holy is God’s name.
- When we pray this prayer that Jesus taught us, we are brought to our own dignity. We live up according to our “image of God”. In our daily lives God can find his glorybecause we are animated by the footsteps of Christ. Our moral lives testify to the fruits of what the love of God has done for us. Hence we show that God truly is holy!
- Moral theology finds, here, a global grasp of our lives articulated around our Father.
Your Kingdom come
- The second request makes us turn to our future. Remember that Jesus preaches the Kingdom and he invites us to look forward to its full realization. We are not to construct this Kingdom. It is not “the Kingdom of Mr. Q”. It is the Kingdom—the Reign—of our Father.
- The Kingdom comes. It moves in many ways. It is present in the person of Christ. It already belongs to the poor and those persecuted for justice. The Kingdom…we desire it deep in our hearts. (Ignatius of Loyola would say that our deepest desire is also the desire of God for us—and it is our joy and gladness that God is all in us).
- There are parables that show how we really desire this treasure. We are willing to sell all to purchase this treasure and this pearl, the Kingdom. The “climax” of life is the Kingdom. Christian life, in principle, derives from this desire for the Kingdom offered to us by Jesus. We actively expect the Kingdom by living as best as we can, coherently, healthily, with justice and peace. We actively expect the Kingdom with our faith, hope and charity.
- We know about the parable of two houses. One house is built on sand, the other on rock. Storms come and the house on rock stands well. Building on rock means having heard the call of Jesus and living according to that call. The Our Father places our moral lives in this world of rock—of solidity.
- When we think about this, we realize something interesting. Jesus indeed has spoken of the Kingdom. He has assured us about this. Hence Christian moral life is founded on the liberation given to us by Jesus. Our life is a life of “thanksgiving”: Oh, thank you for the Kingdom, thank you for what you have promised us. So even before we worry about what good or bad we shall do or avoid, we already have a rock to stand on. We are grateful for this. We orient our lives in giving thanks—it is a thankful life. We have been given the best opportunity to live freely and responsibly. (Sin, as we shall discuss later on, is actually a lack of our use of freedom…we fail to recognize how we have been gifted by the Kingdom).
- So, how do we link this with moral theology? We can recognize that something—the Kingdom—has been promised to us. We live morally in gratitude that this Kingdom will eventually be fully realized. There is no denying it…and our life is spent not on denial but on affirmation about the Kingdom. In so doing, we have a more appropriate management of our freedom.
Your will be done
- Let us note something that may be found inside our heads. We may have grown up into thinking that we must accept anything that happens—even the bad and unfortunate things—and then we say, “It is God’s will”. We say that we must accept anything that happens because “it is God’s will”. But then the experience gets so bitter that we might end up disappointed with God. As the title of one book says, we might wonder “why bad things happen to good people”. The bitterness will fall against the “will” of God—if he is such a loving Father, how can he will that bad things happen to me?
- Let us look at the request: “you will be done”. Again, thanks to our teachers in grammar, we see it is in the subjunctive mood: an expression of various states such as wish, emotion, possibility, judgment, opinion, necessity. So the request can be re-phrased this way: “how could we know the will of the Father and how could we fulfill it in us now?”
- Moral theology would thus propose that we seek the will of God. We discern. If we want to be consistent with the passive voice of the request, we can say that we want to know how the will of God can be fulfilled in us. That the will of God be done in us.
- Since the start of Christianity—especially with the ancient Church—Christians have always asked what is the participation we can have in realizing the will of God in and for us. What can we do so that God can make us happy, fulfilled and in the right path? There is a “partnership”: God and us.
- To ask that the will of the Father be done is to ask what can be done in complex and dark situations; it is to ask for the courage to do as God pleases even if there are threats in front of us. The desire for doing the right thing is in us. We want to keep that alive.
Give us this day our daily bread
- Here we arrive at the second part of the prayer. Two questions can be asked when we think of this request. First, why ask for bread? Second, why do we not ask bread from each other…why ask from our Father?
- Let us look at “bread”. The first time it was mentioned in the Bible was in Genesis. “By the sweat of your face, you will eat bread” (Gn 3/19). God said this the Adam after the fall. Our request for bread—“give us this day, our daily bread”—is really about the question of life and death. Bread is linked with our daily task to live. Isaiah would say that the gift of bread is a way of confronting the anguish of death, “For your anguish, the Lord will give you bread, for your distress, the Lord will give you water” (Is 30/29).
- Bread is fruit of the earth and work of human hands. It is gift from God, but grains must be gathered, grinded, kneaded and baked for there to be bread. So there is a total “solidarity” between God and fellows. There is a unity—a unity of work, a unity of aid, a unity of feeding one another. Bread tells us that we are never alone.
- Bread is a sign of sharing. In the multiplication of bread—the miracle of Jesus feeding many people—we can note the beauty of sharing. But we can also note that, in the end, nobody is stuffed. Nobody is left with the stomach so uselessly full, “paralyzed” and cannot even sit properly. Indeed, there is sharing but not to the point of paralyzing. In a world where we stuff ourselves, we forbid others to eat. So bread can remind us of the miracle of Jesus, telling us that sharing is to promote life, health and well-being…not stuffing.
- The request for bread may also lead us to think of the Eucharist. The daily bread allows to “suspend” the coming of death. The Eucharist allows us to face the inevitability of death, day after day, and to cross death!
- Moral theology can consider the struggle we have and the realization that we are not left on our own without resources, without aid. We are given bread. We can rely on aid—the Eucharist, the Church, the sacraments. To ask how do we live a good life, we can say that we rely on the bread that is gifted to us. Give us this day our bread—that we assure that we are not alone, we share and we receive.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us
- If we harm anyone—if we sin against anyone—it is expected that there will be the question of pardon and mercy. We note that in this prayer, reciprocity is a requirement! The requirement looks extreme! Why? Note that after the Our Father prayer Jesus makes a “commentary” about the prayer itself: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt.6/14-15). Jesus could say many other points, but he focuses uniquely on the request to forgive sins! It matters a lot to be forgiven by the Father if we forgive others!
- In the forgiveness between us—brothers and sisters to one another with God as Our Father—we find the supreme moral act. Mercy and forgiveness are mentioned again and again after the prayer of Our Father. Mercy and forgiveness are in the beatitudes, and they are in the gesture of the Father towards sinners.
- Forgiveness is one of the most recurrent themes in the gospels. In the gospel according to Luke, forgiveness is one of the last acts of Jesus on the cross. Jesus prays for the crowds: “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they do” (Lk.23/34). To the “good criminal”, Jesus acknowledges pardon: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk.23/43).
- Where do we first see forgiveness? We learn about forgiveness first of all in the family. In the family we first learn how to live. This is not strictly cultural…it is not that forgiveness is taught in China but not in Mexico! Of course not! Forgiveness is probably the most universal moral act. It is found everywhere.
- The experience of forgiving—and being forgiven—is everywhere. Look at the commentary of Jesus in verses 14-15. With his commentary we can say that the salvation of all—believers or not—develops in the act that identifies us closely with Christ! Why? We experience between us liberation and life that forgiveness offers. we will not be afraid of forgiveness that God offers us the last day of our life! Happy are those who forgive—those who show mercy. They will receive forgiveness too!
- Ah, let us admit one thing. Forgiving those who harm us, those who hurt us—this is probably one of the most difficult thing to do! Yet, it is the most essential in daily life. Jesus has given so much attention to it, he has reserved his commentary using the topic forgiveness!
- Moral theology is given the task to invest reflection of this. Why? Just think well—it is in forgiveness that we can build well our interpersonal and social relations! It is in non-forgiveness that we destroy our interpersonal and social relations.
Do not lead us to temptation but deliver us from evil
- Notice that the Our Father prayer starts with making us turn to the Father. Now it ends with making us turn away from evil. Jesus Christ, teaching this prayer, has really experienced temptation. Falling to the hold of temptation was not a distant possibility for him!
- Yet through his passion and death Jesus showed, paradoxically, that darkness has been defeated. What if Jesus gave in to the tempter when he was forty days in the desert? What if Jesus gave up his mission and shrunk away from the cross? What if Jesus said, “Forget the kingdom, I do not want to go to the cross, forget my mission, I am running away”? We will never know the defeat of darkness, sin and evil. It is very important for us to know if the way Christ led us from darkness is accessible or not accessible to us. Do we or do we not follow the same path?
- Christ experienced temptation—in the desert, after his baptism. He resisted. How? How was he faithful to his mission against the temptation of the evil one…all the way to the end? The temptations tried to pervert the sense of Christ’s mission by making desires inordinate. The temptations try to mislead by giving the idea that God is dishonest. The temptations try to blind Jesus with power and wealth.
- Look at the prayer of the Our Father. Just before it we read about giving alms and praying. Right after it we read about fasting. Notice something common in all of them: they are meant to decentralize us from ourselves! They help us avoid the trap of sensuality, selfishness and pride. Jesus must know the reality of temptations, so he knows what it means to self-decentralize.
- Jesus was able to resist the temptations because of his confidence on his Father. He prayed. He fasted. He shared. So Jesus is telling us that we can do it—we too can pray, fast and share. He too shows that there is a way of resisting temptation—we decentralize. As Paul, in his letter to Galatains would say, “It is not I but Christ who lives in me” (Gal.2/20). We need to be crucified with Christ—which is another way of saying “decentralize”. Follow the footsteps of Christ, the perfect image of the Father, Christ who has shown the path. We can do it.
- We might have been raised in a mentality that to be moral—and to live a good life—is an impossible task that is too ideal and too high. We might have been raised in a mentality that God gives us unavoidable pains and suffering…as if these are “God’s will”. So moral life looks like a rough, tough and impossible thing to do. Well, Jesus seems to be saying the contrary. It is not God who tempts. The prayer does not say, “Do not tempt us”.
- In Gethsemane in Matt26/41, Jesus invites his disciples en ces termes : “Watch and pray that you do not abandon yourselves into temptation”. The word abandon seems to be very striking—do not let go of the possibility of holding to God. The prayer says, “So that we will not fall into temptation, take us out of evil”.
- We ask the Father to deliver us from evil. The Father, by sending Jesus, says that we are empowered. We can do it—we can live good. We can pray, fast and share…just like Jesus. Sure things are tough, life is hard. Temptations abound. But we can stay faithful and resist falling. In the footsteps of Christ, we can welcome the Sermon on the Mountain as a good news for us.
- The task of moral theology is to be able to show that, indeed, “we can do it”. We can hope. We can hope for the good of each day. The Our Father prayer is “humanizing” us. It puts us in the heart of daily life and gives us the chance to live a concretely good life. Of course it means that we have been empowered to persevere in prayer, in sharing and in regulating our “appetites”.
A brief reflection on: Fasting, “Giving alms”—sharing—and on Praying
- Clearly Jesus insists on the way to fast, to share and to pray. It is clear that we do these not to show others that we do them. It is not about self-glorification.
- Our Father knows what we do in secret. Yes, pray, share and fast discretely. Do not try to get honor in doing them. Jesus is teaching more than just “things to do” but more on attitude. We do them to root ourselves better in our Father. So if the attitude is self-glorification, then there is no rooting in God. We pray, share and fast to have a better taste of the more essential aspects of life. We give glory to God in prayer. We simplify our life when we share—and we help in letting others grow. We participate in the inheritance of the “poor in spirit” when we fast.
- Pray, share and fast…they also signify that moving on in relationship with the Lord require concrete expressions and not abstract expressions. We connect more with Godand less obsession with ourselves. So we cannot falsify what we do by transforming it into a spectacle.
- To form a spectacle out of prayer, sharing and fasting is to become less ourselves. A part of us makes an obstacle to really moving towards God. We find it difficult to encounter God when we do a spectacle.
- It is important to have a sense of detachment in prayer, for example, without complexities and without seeking for anything specific to happen. All we might have to do is to simply stay in the presence of God and encounter God.
- When we share, the point is to help a brother/sister. We help someone—final. Generosity is not a quality presented to someone else. Our wealth is in God—as Christ teaches us. Hence Christ would like that we share. Like him, we share our lives for others. It may begin with the seeds of life that others might receive from us.
- We do not fast too often…it is not very habitual. We might fast because it is written in the calendar—like “fasting on Friday”. Yet, a meaningful fasting is possible. It makes us wiser. It makes us re-adjust many things in life. It is a kind of “re-creating” from emptiness. When we fast, we reduce the consumption of things that other may, eventually, obtain. Again, there is no need for spectacle here. It is wiser to “decode” what our hearts want, and what our desires look for.
- Jesus, three times, insist on doing something discreetly—in secret. Today there are the cameras that record what we do. Cameras are so available—even the cellphone has one. But we do things not in our name, not for our glory. Prayer, sharing and fasting are done in secret because they are done in the name of Jesus—he who refuses making a spectacle out of himself. Prayer, sharing and fasting are done in emphasizing more the relationship we make with Jesus.
- Just think about publishing to others that we fast, we share and that we pray. It shows how dependent we are on what others will say. There has to be “eyes” to see us to wonderful things. It prohibits us to act on our own. We always have to wait for the cameras to click before we do anything—this is the wrong attitude.
- Paradoxically, praying, sharing and fasting discreetly is like putting a lamp up a table…or like a village with light up the mountain. Why? It is faith that is acting. It is faith that is mobilized. It is faith that is witnessing to the relationship with Jesus. Our gestures say something about Jesus—not ourselves. So this is really lighting a lamp. It is a public attitude…but of a different sort. People can see that we pray, fast, and share—they see we do it for the Lord. We do it for the kingdom.
The "heart": Biblical and Moral-Theological Reflections
“Heart” in the Bible: Some descriptions and how they can be useful in moral theology
- We might say that “heart” symbolizes affection…emotion. The “heart” can be “a loving heart”, a “sensible heart”, a “generous heart”, a “courageous heart”, etc. Someone can be so hardened, he/she has a “heart of stone”.
- In the Bible the heart has a very vast meaning and the heart is more than about emotions and affectivity. Heart can also mean many things like the intellect and thinking. Heart means something deep and extended. Let us explore the Bible a bit and see how heart is understood. Hopefully it can clarify how we deal with heart in moral theology. Let us look at the Old Testament then move to the New Testament.
Heart as “thinking with an orientation”
- “You have shut their hearts to reason” (Jb.17/4). This passage from Job tells us about the cry of this man who feels that he is so badly treated by his critics. In other words, the critics have stopped thinking of anything else except criticism against Job. Their thinking process revolves around how to criticize Job. So, is this about “thinking”? In a way yes, but it has a more complex meaning than just “thinking”. It has a dynamics to it because it is thinking that is shaped and limited by an option. There must be “something more” than just thinking.
- In another part of the Old Testament we read: “…may God give you heart and discernment, may he give you commands so that you may observe the Law of the Lord God” (1Chron.22/12). David is here speaking to his son, Solomon. So the mention of heart says something about having a keen view of observing the commands of God. So it is more than just a matter of thinking—it is also discretion and carefulness. Heart can mean “thinking” and also “a thinking that has its interest”. Heart can mean “thinking with discretion”.
- Let us look at Proverbs: “In the heart of a discerning man wisdom makes her home. With the fool, wisdom has no place at all” (Pr.14/33). A few verses after we read: “The heart of the discerning makes knowledge its search” (Pr.15/14). So in proverbs, there is a meaning given to heart. The heart is not just the thinking capacity, it is an active part that seeps deep into understanding and knowing—hence wisdom. With this notion of heart, we just do not know things, we want to deepen our knowing. Heart is concerned not just with taking in more information, it is concerned with deepening and expanding the capacity to know. Why is this capacity important? It is important because it helps us discern. Are the things we know true? Are they valid? Are they going to harm us or help us? Etc. So heart is about discernment, or more precisely, the development of discernment. With the heart we can discern.
- Now, the heart is “intelligence” alright. But often we use intelligence to do crazy things. Look at this verse: “The heart of a fool is like a broken vase that holds no knowledge” (Sir.21/14—sometimes “Sir” is entitled as Ecclesiasticus). There is, in the heart, beastly matter and stupidity.
- The fool is different from the wise. Look at this: “The heart of the fool is in the mouth, the mouth of the wise is the heart” (Si 21,26). This is very poetic. What does it say of the heart? When the fool speaks, the heart is revealed—it is about the revealing of the “agenda” of the fool. The wise, however, has a heart that manifests, that speaks with wisdom. The speech and heart are one in the wise. So what can heart mean here? It can mean “orientation”—or where the desire wants to go. It looks like thinking, but more than thinking it is also desiring. Thoughts have their desires. It is seen in the fool and in the wise.
- But wait a minute. To be a fool is something serious in the Bible. The fool is someone who refuses God—someone who says in the heart: “…there is no God” (Ps.14/1). The fool is dishonest—he or she perverts things, she or he dishonors the Law of God. The heart of the fool takes an orientation that is senseless.
- To sum it up: The heart can mean intelligence. It can mean our capacity to think. But there is more. It is also the capacity to direct the thinking—to discern, to make discretion, to expand the capacity to know and understand more. The heart of the fool is very much like the heart of the wise, except that the fool prefers perversion and refusal of God. Heart is therefore also an orientation of thinking. It is our manner of leading our thoughts—towards foolishness or wisdom.
The heart as an emotional dimension for the Psalmist:
- We read a verse: “My heart is like wax, melting in my stomach” (22/15). Then we read another verse: “My heart aches in my chest” (55/5)…it literally means “my heart is turning inside of me”. Finally, here is a verse: “my heart is shriveling like scorched grass” (102/5). The heart is something “inside” of us. The idea gives us the impression of feeling and affection. So the heart is that part of us that feels…and it can really feel the negative.
- The arrogant, says a psalm, has a heart “as overweight as fat” (102/70). Fat, because it weighs, cannot move well…it is not flowing. It stays…like an obstruction. There is not a movement. The heart of the one who follows God is different. He or she has a heart “that respects the precepts…my delight is in your Law” (102/69-70). Opposite the heavy fat is the delighted…”jumping with joy”, so to speak. Again there can be an emotional feature here—either “gross” or “delighted”. The heart has its emotional-affective aspect. Look at this: “I run the way of your commandments because you have put my heart in the open” (109/32). Taking the path of God is more of an experience of liberty—being in the open rather than in an enclosure. The heart is that which feels the liberty of openness, the liberty of space. How can this liberation happen? “My kidneys instruct me, even in the night…so my heart rejoices” (16/7b and 9a). The psalmist is saying that God comes from within us and when we realize this we rejoice. The heart celebrates when God comes in us.
- “My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God” (84/2b). And again, an emotional verse: “In shaking with joy, my heart praises you” (45/1). So notice the emotional aspect of heart.
The heart as the place of decision: unity of life or dispersion?
- “Your testimonies are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on fulfilling your statutes; they are my reward forever” (Ps119/111-112). The heart organizes life—by following the precepts of the Law, we get our reward. Life has unity, it is not scattered. So the heart can be a principle to putting life together, following the Law of God.
- But then we can be dispersed. We have so many plans and projects, we have various desires to accomplish. Job says, “My days pass by, my plans are at an end, the yearning of my heart” (Job 17/11). The wishes—the many wishes—of the heart are gone, says Job. The heart is a principle of desiring.
- The heart, therefore, can be ambivalent. It turns this way or that way. The heart can bring forth many branches—that is, many branches of desires. “The root of all conduct is the heart; four branches the heart shoots forth” (Si 37/17-18a).
- The heart is the place where we decide. “Do not be lazy with fearing the Lord, do approach the Lord God with a heart cut in two” (Sir.1/28). A double heart is a heart with one wanting this and the other wanting the contrary. We might go to God and yet we prefer to go elsewhere. Decide. Make sure where you want to be and where you want to go. The heart is the principle of decision. This explains what David says to his son Solomon: “And you, Solomon, my son, know God your Father, serve him with oneheart” (1Chron.28/9a). So the heart must be clear—if it is about God, then God alone.
- So we see that our directions—orientations—find their home in the heart. The heart is that principle of decision that gives direction to where we want to put ourselves. “From above the eternal one looks at children of men, from where he lives he watches the inhabitants of earth, the eternal one sees the children of men, from his residence God watches the inhabitants of the world, he has shaped their hearts” (Ps33/13-15). God shapes hearts. God influences hearts. God enters into the heart of each inhabitant of earth. Thanks to this, there is unity and harmony in oneself—in life. We might also say that the dispersed heart is a heart of separation. Things are not in order…there is no harmony. This explains a phrase that we are used to. What is it?
- “I seek for you will all my heart” (Ps119/10a). “I beg to you with all my heart” (Ps119/58a). This means that there is, in fact, one heart that prays, that begs, that seeks. As one heart it is united. “Many that believed had but one heart” (Ps.86/11). Again, we repeat, that the heart can be the seat of decision—decide, is it one or two? Is it to be a life united or a dispersed life?
The heart as the place of conversion
- “If you look for the eternal one, your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart” (Dt. 4/29). This means decision. It means a hard choice. But when the choice is made, you will find what you want—God. “Love God with all your heart” (Dt.6/5). Notice then that the heart is one—unified.
- It may not be easy. The heart may be in us, but “I will attract them, I will make them go to the desert and I will speak in their hearts” (Hos.2/16). God speaks. Where? He can speak in the heart. The heart is the place where God can be encountered…where God can be heard. This encounter opens up the possibility of conversion. With one heart we turn to God.
- So the heart is where God speaks to us and it is where we can turn to God. it is the place of our conversion. “They do not know nor understand because…they have their hearts covered so they do not understand…He who craves for ash has a deluded heart” (Is 44,18-20a). When the heart is covered, when the heart wants ash—a symbol for nothing, uselessness—then the heart is deluded. It lives in an illusion. So it is wise to discern. God speaks…listen in the heart, discern and then decide.
- And so “…eyes that see are no longer covered…light hearts will hear wisdom” (Is32/3-4). Remember the pains and sufferings—“your heart remembers the terrors” (Is33/18a). Allow God to “circumcise” the heart and give us a “new heart”.
- Circumcision indicates “belonging”. So when the heart is not circumcised, it does not belong to God. “The nations are not circumcised, the house of Israel has an uncircumcised heart” (Jer9/25b). The house of Israel does not live as if it belongs to God. It has the heart “not-belonging”. Hence the prophet Jeremiah awakens Israel: “God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your posterity so that you will love your God with all your heart….” (Jr 4,4). The act of circumcision is an act that God will do. In the heart God will call us to belong to him. The heart is where we learn to belong to God.
- We can refuse. We can resist. We can say no. This is our pride. In the heart we can refuse. The heart can be the place of pride. “I will take them to the land of their enemies, then their uncircumcised heart will be humble” (Lev.26/41). The proud who refuses God will be humbled.
- This heart may be hardened…it may be like stone. God will engrave his Law in that stone. The heart is where God engraves his will. “I will put my law in them, I will write in their heart” (Jer.31/33b). A heart of stone that stays stone, however, can only have engraved Laws—fixed Laws. A heart of flesh is the heart that can make the Law more “cordial” and vibrate—alive. When renewed, the heart beats in the same rhythm as God’s heart. The heart of God enters in resonance with our heart. (This explains the tradition of the “Heart of Jesus”). God must give this “new heart”: “…make yourselves a new heart”…(Ez 18/31b). This is with the trust that God himself will offer that heart: “I will give you a new heart, I will put in you new breath, I will remove from you the heart of stone and I will give you a heart of flesh” (Ez.36/26).
- The heart is where we can accept or refuse God. It is seat of deciding that is converted or rigid.
10. Now we can move to the New Testament.
The heart as presence of Christ and the disciples: the presence to each other
- Christianity is a very “wholehearted” religion. The ancient Law—the Torah—is not abolished. It is given more chance to be open and realistic. The demands of the Law continue, but they are meant to be “heart-full” of the conditions of the human person. Let us see what this means.
- Let us read Mt.11/28-30: “Come to me, all you who are very tired and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Carry my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Jesus came to help us out—to get us out of the darkness in life. No he did not come to judge. Note that there is still a yoke to carry—there is no denial of responsibility and work. But there is rest…it is not a yoke of slavery. This reminds us of Jeremiah: “Stop along the road; see and ask if this road is good. Take it and you will find a calm place for you” (Jer.6/16b). Heart implies presence of someone—Jesus, in the New Testament—who is meek and humble. Heart implies accompaniment. We have the company of someone who cares.
- This notion of heart can again be seen in the road to Emmaus story. The disciples were broken hearted because the man they pinned their hopes on died on the cross. But after walking with Jesus whom they did not recognize at first, they felt something. “Did our hearts not burn inside of us while he walked with us and while he explained the Scriptures?” (Lk.24/32b). The presence of Jesus “burned their hearts” too. The presence of Jesus made them alive, peaceful, calm and not agitated. It deleted the anguish and depression in them. This makes us see what Jesus means by “you will find rest for your selves”…and even what Jeremiah says, “you will find a calm place for you”.
- Jesus, meek and humble of heart, gives his discourse on the mountain and he proclaims who is happy. Let us, again, look at some of these Beatitudes. “Happy the poor in spirit” (Mt.5/3). Happy is the one who is stripped off of all things that assure power, force, imposition, competition, pride, etc. Happy is the one who prefers God alone as possession—this happiness does not offer resistance to what God can offer. “Happy is the meek” (Mt.5/5). In a world of violence and injustice, we can continue the chain uninterrupted. The meek breaks the chain—the meek joins the peacemakers (see Mt.5/9).
- “Happy the pure in heart” (Mt.5/8). This reminds us of the unified heart—the heart that is not split in two. This heart has no deviations of lying and deceit—it chooses one and only one path—the path to Christ. The pure in heart is what the psalm describes…the one who prays: “You love the truth in the heart. O God, creates in me a pure heart…” (Ps.51/12).
The heart as the place where the presence of Christ dwells
- Of course our reference can also be the other texts, like the Letters of Paul. Paul writes about “heart” too: “…confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead…. believe with the heart and be justified” (Rom.10/9). Heart here is the principle of belief and acceptance of the truth about Jesus—that Jesus is, indeed risen from the dead, that he has been raised by the Father. Paul expresses this well in this verse: “May the eyes of [your] hearts be enlightened, that you may know the hope that you are called for (Ep.1/18a).
- So we have now an angle in understanding heart. In the heart—and a heart of faith—is found the presence of the spirit of Christ: “God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father! (Gal.4/6). In the heart—and a heart of faith—is found the presence of peace—the peace of God: “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Ph.4/7).
- We have a lot of data about the notion of heart. The heart is the area of emotions and affection. But it is also the area of thinking with decision and orientation. It is where we unify or disperse our lives, where we find peace or agitation. Very interesting is that the heart is presence—it seems to say that the heart symbolizes “the whole of myself”, my feeling part, my thinking part, my deciding part, my being-present to God. The heart is our vital human center: here we feel, we think, we decide, we orient our lives, we make ourselves present to others. So heart is such a vast notion in the Bible…it is not just what modern songs say. Modern songs focus a lot more on the emotional side, which is correct but partial.
- How do we relate this to moral theology? The heart—our heart—is not always pure. It does not always choose the right path, it chooses the path of darkness and dispersion. This explains why we need to see how the heart can move to the correct—moral—direction. We have seen, above, the role of God circumcising and renewing the heart. This means that God will help us transform ourselves into adhering to him more concretely.
- There is an old song entitled “Day by Day” (1972):
(to hear the original, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3PjfBQjJT8)
“Day by day,
Day by day,
Oh Dear Lord
Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day”
- So in the heart we are transformed, slowly maybe…day by day…into welcoming the presence of Jesus himself. But we too open up to this transformation offered to us by God. We open up to our vocation of happiness.
- Now notice that as we discuss heart, we do not talk about Laws and Norms. Of course morality involves vigilance on what “should” be done—and so the importance of laws and norms. But on the rock bottom of morality is the human person. The heart is about persons—persons who think, who decide, who choose, who feel, etc. So when we really want to focus on the heart, we need to recognize the central place of the person. Now, from a theological point of view, we say that Jesus insists on the heart rather than the law. He talks of inner dispositions rather that outer rules. It is more of what the heart feels, thinks, decides rather than what the laws say.
- Let us read a passage, this time from Mark: “Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine? (Thus he declared all foods clean.) But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile” (Mk.18-23). So Jesus is talking about “what is inside” which is the heart—the area of our feelings and thinking and deciding. It is the area of our dispositions towards life and neighbors. Here is where morality has to enter.
- Look at what Jesus says whenever someone might like to look “with lust” on someone else: ““You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mtt. 5/27). The law has something to say—but more fundamentally it is the heart that must be addressed. Adultery—which is illegal—comes from the heart that is lustful. So there is something deeper than just the law. There is the human person and the dispositions towards others. So it is about the heart.
- The heart is where we can meet God. For the New Testament, God can manifest his goodness in our heart: ““Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” (Mk.3/4). The Sabbath is legal, it is to be observed. If it is not observed, then one breaks the Law. But notice Jesus says that something is more important than just observance of the Law.
- Again, the disposition of doing is crucial. Again we repeat, the heart is what matters most in morality: “…everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?...What comes out of a person, that is what defiles…from within people, from their hearts….” (Mk.7/18-20).
- Morality—and even moral theology—may have to deal with laws and norms. But the more central attention is to be given to the heart. The Kingdom has been presented, it calls now for growth of persons—growth of the heart. We are called to a “day by day” growing response to the “light yoke” of the Kingdom. Day by day we do our best to live in justice, peace, love.
Phenomenology of Action and Choice
A Phenomenology of Action and Choice:
- We can do something and it may be “only in the head”. For example I am trying to work a mathematical problem in my head. I can put in things and delete them. They all happen in my head. Sometimes we dream or we make fantasies. I wish I were in the dining hall having a glass of water. This is something we might be doing from time to time—we have wishes. While we make wishes, nothing is happening. If wishing for a glass of water in the dining hall stays in my head as a wish, nothing is happening. For something to happen, there must be a “fiat” or a “yes”.
- We say “yes I will do it”. If there is nothing like this, we stay fantasizing…we make plans and projects but there is nothing performed.
- Maybe we make plans then drop them. I plan to go to the dining hall for that glass of water. I stand from my seat, take a few steps out of the classroom…then drop the plan, “Oh, never mind”. So I return to my seat. In this case no performance happens regarding the move to the dining room.
- But we also experience moments when we have to select what to do. It might have happened to someone considering becoming a fully professed religious. Take an example.
- Will I become religious or will I get married to my beloved Maymay? So there is this person trying to figure out what exactly will be the decision. Then, at some point the person says, “I will become a fully professed religious”. The person calls up the congregation…makes a first meeting with the formator…starts formation…etc. A performance happens.
- Look at the way we make our plans. We anticipate a certain future—we think of something that already has happened…but in the future still. Maybe grammar can help us. We think of something that will have happened or something that will have been achieved. This, in grammar, is called the “future perfect tense”. We have in mind something that will have been accomplished. We think of the “finished product” even if it is still in the future. Then we make the steps to realize that.
- An architect, for example, imagines the building to be constructed. Then the architect draws the design—called the “blue print”—based on the imagined building. We anticipate a project. Next we take the steps.
- Having a project in mind is crucial. Maybe we look back in the past and think of similar situations—situations that have happened in the past similar to the project. Yet, the project remains “empty”. We may rely on past similarities, but we can never know what exactly can happen in the future. We can never be absolutely sure that the past can repeat itself. What happens in the plan—lying in the future—still depends on the steps we make to achieving it. Take an example.
- So will I become religious or get married? I say I will become religious—fully professed. I have had experiences in the past similar to what I think is religious life. I was active in the church, active in the choir, I had friends who were priests and religious, etc. Those past experiences may just be similar to what is in my plan. But as I make the steps, as I go through the process—the formation, the studies, the mistakes and the success—somehow things are never exactly the same as what I have known before. As I go through the stages of formation towards full profession I am growing older and my knowledge is enlarging. New things come my way. The steps I make towards full profession tell me that there are, also, uncertainties along the way. This is not a mechanical repetition of the past. I am not a machine, anyway. In the past the machine has done one thing. Well, in the future, it will do exactly the same thing. This is the machine. I am different.
- What makes us different from the machine is that when we do something, we havemotives.
- Let us be precise with this notion of “motives”. Let us say I move to the dining hall to get that glass of water. I am making this walk in order to get a glass of water. There is a goal I am moving to. The plan or the goal which lies in the future motivates me to make my steps. The steps, in other words are motivated by the plan or goal. For the steps to take place, I need to make my “fiat”…my “yes”. Let us call this motive lying in the future as “in-order-to” motive.
- But wait a minute? Why do I plan to have that water? Well, I have been talking in class giving my report and my mouth is dry. Because my mouth is dry, I think I will get a glass of water from the dining hall. I feel uncomfortable with a dry mouth. Also I have an allergy that is easily triggered in the mouth when it is dry. Also I grew up in a family that made it a point to drink water as often as possible. So I make the plan—have that drink of water—because it is motivated by my thirst, my allergy risk and my family upbringing. Past experiences motivate us to make future goals! What is motivated by past experiences—thirst, allergy, family—is the goal. Let us call this motive that is from the past as “because” motive.
- Ordinarily we do not pay much attention to these two motivations. So I might say that I am going to the dining hall because I want to drink water. We say “because” to refer to “in order to”. To help us, we observe the time frame involved. If we consider the plan of the action, then we are speaking of the future. We are speaking of the “in-order-to” motive. If we consider the conditions in which we are made to act, the we are speaking of the past. This is then the “because” motive.
- While we are living directly, acting out, we have in focus our plans. We are focused on what we like to happen—our “in order to” plans. The “because” motive is not in our attention while we act. It is only afterwards, when we have finished the action when we can look back and investigate the circumstances that led us to act. I want a glass of water, and I want it now. So I stand from my seat and I move to the dining hall. What I have in mind is that glass of water and my thirst quenched. My allergy and my family patterns, for example, are not exactly what I have in mind. It is only after I have finished that glass of water that I can note the reasons that made me do it. Or, maybe as I am walking towards the dining hall I recall what has pushed me to desire that drink. Then I can retrospect the “because” motives. The “because” motives reveal in retrospect.
- Let us discuss an important point regarding the difference between “just fantasizing” and really acting. I may fantasize that I am the big hero of all the problems in this school. I might think that I am the rector, and the best rector ever! While it is fantasy, nothing stops me from doing anything—as rector I might change the whole school, build three more buildings, buy laptops for each and every student, buy plane tickets for all members of the school staff, I might even be in two places at the same time, etc. But it is all in my head—pure fantasy. I can fancy that no conditions will stop me from doing what I want.
- It is different when we really act in the world. There are conditions in which action will have to happen—and most of these conditions are “there” and they “impose” on us. We cannot wish them away. We cannot delete them. We carry out our actions and we try to realize our plans within the limits imposed on us by the conditions around us. I have to weigh the chances and the risks involved. Of course this is easy when it is about getting a glass of water from the dining hall. But what about major decisions—like becoming a religious or getting married, like a doctor considering surgery for the patient, or a government official deciding on whether to save or to spend millions of dollars, or a family deciding on continuing or discontinuing the respirator machine connected to their father, or a pregnant teenager asking if she will have an abortion or not. These and many other cases cannot just be solved by fantasy. There are the “hard facts of reality” to face.
- How easy it would be if major decisions were exactly the same all the time. It would be so easy if every major decision we make we are just repeating what we have done before—like it has become so routine. But in life we know that many big cases open up to new situations and new decisions. Nobody really decides becoming fully professed religious every three weeks. Nobody really does an abortion every year. Nobody has his father killed every four years. We are certain situations that may look similar to past experiences, but new and even dramatic elements are new and must be faced.
- So when we make plans, we are obliged to be compatible—or to be as compatible as possible—with the “hard facts of reality” around us.
- I want a drink of water. I just do not click my fingers and then the glass of water appears! I have to recognize the distance from here to the dining hall. I have to recognize that I might not be allowed to step out of the room by my teacher. I have to recognize that from here to the dining hall requires many steps. Etc. The teenage girl who wants an abortion does not just imagine that the fetus in her womb disappears into thin air. She has to consider the law of her country. She has to consider the opinion of her boy friend and the opinion of her family. She has to consider the guilt that may arise in her. She has to consider the opinion of her friend, the parish priest. She has to consider which doctor will do the abortion. There is the blade, the scissor, the tongs, the fluids, the medication, and all things that will interfere in her own body. Etc.
- This makes us ask “how practical” we can get with our actions. What are in the situations which our projected plans and goals have to consider so that the plans are possible? What are in the situations in which we make our actions that we have to look at so that we can say that our plans are “practical”? We can do it and we are not dreaming!
- Well, we studied one aspect last semester in our sociology-anthropology class. We hold certain beliefs about our world. There are things we accept, we believe in and we do not doubt them. We accept them as real, we do not question them. We accept the world we are in as familiar. Beyond the familiar, we dare not go. So long as we can move on in daily life with the familiar world we are in, why bother to raise questions?
- This is a dog, that is a cat, over there is a house. That is a man, she is a woman, he is an old man, she is a young lady. I grow old, and soon I will be adding another year to my life, a new birthday. This box is heavy. The lamp is bright. The sky is dark. The tree branch is high. The sea is wide and deep. It is raining at this time of the year. The sun is so hot on April. This is the physical world as it is given—it is a fact, an undeniable fact of my daily reality.
- This is the way we prepare food and the way we eat. This is the way men wear clothes, that is the way women wear clothes. Children have roles in the house and in the neighborhood. We treat old people in this or that way. Young people choose partners for marriage and there are the ways of choosing and not choosing. Etc. It is the way of daily life—the way that, we suppose, everybody else is doing and accepting.
- Many of these things are not my own personal and individual inventions. They are social and cultural. They are not mine alone. I did not invent marriage or gender roles or family life or economic patterns. They are here in my daily life and I was born into this social and cultural patterns. I was born into this world with this particular body, this particular gender, this particular build, into this family, neighborhood, society and culture. These are facts that I cannot deny, delete nor simply wish away.
- Notice then that when we make plans and goals, a big part of things to consider is how these plans and goals fit into the whole physical, social and cultural ways. How do they fit in the accepted and unquestioned ways of daily life? Take our usual examples.
- I want a drink of water. Can I leave this room at this hour? There is the class to think of, and the teacher’s permission. It is part of the daily structure in school. There is the dining hall, many meters away from here, and the glass of water and the water from the faucet…all realities I accept as true.
- I want to be a religious. At my age…it is still a possibility. Well, it seems an accepted institution for my family—maybe for my culture too. What about my dearest friend Maymay? This is a reality to think of—and I recognize the reality of breaking someone’s heart. What about the formation, the studies, the community…etc.? See how real they are and they are really part of social-cultural life.
- A teenage girl plans to have an abortion. There is the reality of moral norms. There is the reality of what the parents and the boyfriend will say. There is the reality of health and psychological impact. Etc.
- So a plan or a goal will have to fit in many things—if it fits, it may be called “practical”. If not, it might be “impractical”. It will be resisted.
- Of course not everything around us is beyond our control. Maybe it is difficult to face the opinions and views of the elders of the family. Maybe there are moral codes that are so solidly entrenched in society. Maybe there is the physical world that is so fixed we cannot change them. But there are aspects that fall within our control too. Maybe I can convince some people to change their opinions. Maybe I can use more money to get what I want. But for all practical purposes, in daily life we “fit in”—more or less—with the fixed ways.
- This, again, is what makes our actions “practical”. Our actions “fit in”. This has a consequence. We get the impression that our actions look like the typical things people would do. The whole social-cultural life is so “real” that whenever we make plans and decide we “fit in” our plans and decisions. So actions look typical—they are more or less what many others do. People get married, they look for a job, they dress this way and that way, they eat this way and that, they listen to this or that music, they follow this or that religion. From the outside—that is, from the point of view of observing people’s actions—we get the impression that the actions follow patterns of society and culture. It looks as if there is nothing original in each action. It looks as if there is nothing so personal in each action. Each action is typically done by everyone.
- Although we are not machines, there comes a point when we behave quite “mechanically”, “routinely”. We go on and on submitting ourselves to the “dictates” of social and cultural ways. In social science this may be called “tradition”. Tradition holds a strong presence around us. One of the main features of tradition is that it has “passed the test of time”. In the past, people have been doing practices and behaviors, and so far they seem to work well even today. So we expect them to work ok in the future. In the past we have always been preparing and eating food this way. It worked--it went ok. So it will continue to be ok. In the past we have always been marrying people this way. It worked--it went ok. So it will continue to be ok. In the past we have always been working with this type of social leadership. It worked--it went ok. So it will continue to be ok. Etc. Such is the power of tradition—people sustain it.
- There are other possible ways of acting in the world. People can make other projects and decide on things that do not “fit in” the approved ways. But, for all practical purposes, why “think out of the box”? Why “act outside the box”? In a way, we can also “think out of the box” and try living, more or less, “outside the box”. There must be a reason for doing this—and if there is no reason, we might not do it. In other words, we feel it safest to live a practical life. So what can make us try what is “outside the box”?
- We might “doubt” and start asking questions. Like we might start asking, “Why do I have to do this?”. This question was previously unthinkable of. But now, we might ask it. We can refrain from simply accepting the ways around us. What has been without question before can now be questioned. A different plan or goal can be imagined, and it is something “out of the box”. What could happen if that goal is pursued?
- Take an example. Everyone says it is normal to get married. But one person says: “No, I will take a different path”. Here is where we can really say that someone is “choosing with effort”. In the routine ways of living “inside the box” making plans are quite “easy”. Everyone is doing the same thing, so I too will do it. But what if someone does not jump follow? What if someone asks questions and say: “I want to do something else”. This new choice “competes” with the usual choices.
- The word “compete” is worth noting. We are sometimes put in situations where choices compete with one another. We cannot just act “in the box”. We feel the need to ask, to raise questions and to seek other possibilities—alternatives. As we conceive of those alternatives, we see them compete with the usual choices. Just think of many situations that can happen.
- To abort or not to abort an infant; to do euthanasia or to let the sick die in pain; to go “all war” with a rebel group or continue “peace talks”; to select a career that is so unexpected by the parents or to obey the parents; to continue an environmental hazard business or to stop it all; etc. In situations like these, notice that people struggle between “in the box” choices and “outside the box” choices. Look at it this way: “In the past—traditionally—we have been doing X. Now I am thinking ‘out of the box’—out of the traditional ways, and I have an alternative which is Y”. For example, someone might say, “In the past we have always protected the infant in the womb…now I propose abortion”.
- Now why do alternatives compete? Why is there competition of choices? How does the competition arise?
- Again, there is nothing new in our discussions here. We have touched on this last semester. “Breaks” happen. The routine and habitual—“mechanical”—ways “break”. There are many reasons why breaks happen. Our routine traditional ways show cracks and they disappoint us. Problems arise and our traditions cannot seem to have the ready-made solutions. Prokopyo falls in love with Macaria but this love is prohibited by tradition. In the past, people of different economic statuses do not mix. But Prokopyo, who belongs to the higher class, loves Macaria who belongs to the poor class. Prokopyo asks: “Why? If I love this woman, why prohibit me?” Maybe we get exposed to new elements—foreign elements—and they make us compare these foreign elements with our local practices. Gorgorio has seen that in the USA young people at the age of 19 are already independent of their families. Gorgorio, who is now 24, is still under the roof of his parents. He asks: “Why stay like this when it is possible to leave—I saw it on an American T.V. show!”
- The point is, we start “contesting” and questioning tradition. Is it possible to try something “out of the box”—something that is not within the approved and “time-tested” ways of my society? Maybe it is not “time-tested” anyway! Ah, a series of questions arise—tradition is contested and it is contested by something else. There is an attractive alternative.
- When we experience this “contest” between tradition, habit, routine and alternatives, we notice that we start “taking sides”. Often—very often—it is not easy, especially when the alternatives do not prove that they have “passed the test of time”. Tradition has its evidence in history. My people and my society has had this practice for such a long time. Alternatives, however, have weak evidences of history. Maybe they have passed the test of time for another society, but certainly not in my society. We might even know very little of the alternatives. Yet we are now in doubt about the complete validity of tradition. Deciding in favor of one against the other—tradition or alternative—is a problem. It can be so anguishing at times.
- Will Prokopyo really marry Macaria in spite of the resistance of the family? But he is already questioning the ways of the family. Can he do it? Will Gorgonio leave his family and seek another place of residence in spite of the protection he has always had with his family? But he is now starting to question the sense of this traditional protection. Can a teen age girl opt for abortion in spite of the religious stand of her family and neighborhood? And yet she is not anymore sure if this religiosity is valid. Ah, see how intense the struggles can be.
- Here is something to mention with emphasis: every time we make plans and goals, we are actually in a situation of problems. Why? Every time we act to fulfill a plan, we carry with us the alternative of no doing it. In traditional ways—“in the box”—we do not see this. In routine life, we do not notice this. We keep on rolling with tradition—we do what routine says. This is why routine life does not appear problematic. Living in the box is living in a zone that is “comfortable”. But when we start realizing that we can always say, “No, I will not do it”, we are opening up an alternative—the choice of at least refusing tradition. This can be “uncomfortable”.
- We use the words “comfortable” and “uncomfortable”—words which have become fashionable terms these days, especially in formation. Hopefully we have a better understanding of why the “comfort zone” is indeed, comfortable. It is a zone of “security” where there are no contests of options. Decision making is relatively fixed—just follow the gestures of tradition and habit. Efforts are economized, anxiety is eliminated. Let us describe this living in the comfortable box.
- As we stay within the box of tradition and habit, when we make plans—and decide on our plans—we might also have to select and choose. But the choices are not seen as competing alternatives. This is like buying toothpaste from the store. There is tube-brand-A and there is tube-brand-B. If we select tube-brand-A, the other stays. We decide to buy one and leave the other. The other is there in the shelf.
- This assumes that we always find ourselves within more or less ready-made choices that determine the course of our lives. Life looks as if it is placed within a box—indeed within a box—with all the choices ready-made.
- This is what can happen, for example, when deciding on becoming a fully professed religious or getting married. The two options might not appear to be “in contest”. Rather they are “ready-made” in front of the young person. They are “tube-brand-A” and “tube-brand-B”. Take one and leave the other—it does not really matter. Taking one choice does not affect the other choice. If, at a certain point, the young person decides to shift “tubes” and says, “Well, religious life is boring, I think I will get married”. The married life is there, “ready-made” in the shelf. They are not “in contest” because they both fall within the options of tradition. They are not in conflict. They do not appear to be competing alternatives. Note what we say: “they do not appear…” This is when we look at the situation like we are spectators only. It is as if routine habitual life gives us the choices and we watch them come—then we select.
- But from within the person making choices—never is this person just a spectator. Somehow there is the “participant” in that person. The person is “participating”—performing.
- We have gotten used to thinking, however, that we are often mere “spectators”…that life offers us ready-made choices and we watch the choices “drop from the trees”. We might neglect the “participant” side of us—that each and every action we make is really marked by “problematic choices”.
- The spectator in us likes to have the world “as an object”, a grocery with “tube brands”. Spectatorship towards the world—and especially towards other people—results in actions that serve as mere “output” or “production”.
- In economics there is this so-called “marginal principle”. In this principle, we increase the level of activity if there is benefit coming from it. We reduce the level of activity if it gets too costly. So we evaluate actions according to cost-benefit, brief, practicability. Is the action “practical”? We have no choice—the most obvious answer is: be practical. We do not make choices…the routine practical life makes it for us.
- But keep a close watch over ourselves—let me look at myself as I make choices and decisions. When I make a plan or a goal, actually I am thinking of the future, I am “projecting” ahead of me in time something that is not yet happening. It is not yet a reality. This plan making is mine. Maybe in the routine life I do not notice this. But a closer look will show that there is a very strong link between me and my plans. I am actually implicated. What happens when we see ourselves directly involved with our choices and decisions?
- I am now, at this point of my life, choosing the path I will take. Shall I get married…shall I be religious? None of these is real. I am neither, right now, married nor religious. To choose one or the other is really up to me. If I select one, then I make my “fiat” to the steps leading to that plan. I do not take the steps leading to the other. I do not, for example, spend my time with my beloved Maymay while on formation in the novitiate then in MAPAC. The plan to become religious calls me to take a different set of steps.
- Here is a further point: the problem arises because of me. I make the problem. This may sound strange, so let us see what it means.
- While we make our plans and we do not yet take the steps towards realizing our plans—there is no “fiat” given yet—there is no problem. We are simply fantasizing. But as soon as we commit ourselves to realizing our plans, the basic problem arises: we can say no to what we do, we can stop and abandon it. Or, we might have a competing plan—an alternative—towards which our steps are not committed. Because we takethese steps and not those, we have a true problem. Anything that stands as alternative and therefore as problematic is up to me. The problem depends on how committed I am to one plan and not to its alternatives. Let us put it this way.
- Let us say that I am to choose between becoming a religious or getting married. It does not matter. Both are highly accepted by my family—I choose one or the other, it does not matter. At this point I still play the role of “spectator”. But then I commit to becoming a religious and I enter formation. Suddenly I realize that I am directing my life for the religious institute and not for my beloved Maymay. I see that the reality of being a married person is given up. I am now a participant in the process. Of course it is ok for my family if I take any choice. But I realize that I am implicated. I—and not my family—I am finally making the choice. I may have been “obedient” to my family, but I still am the person involved in making the choice. The options—the different plans—emerge to compete. It is now a problem and it is my problem. It has become a problem because I am choosing, because I am directing my steps to one line and not to another.
- Becoming religious and getting married are not two things waiting for me. I create the plan, I am responsible for thinking of a certain future to which my moves will be committed. That future is really up to me.
- Maybe I struggle. Will I marry or will I be religious? So I oscillate between the two. I enlarge my understanding. “If I take this one then I realize that I cannot do that…If I do that then I cannot do this…” Dropping one plan and shifting to another, I start evaluating one plan against the other. The plans do not remain the same as I shift. Just think of someone who, in the middle of loving someone for marriage, shifts to become a religious. Notice how the idea of marriage changes. But now, a few weeks before final vows, this person jumps back to the beloved…for marriage. The understanding of religious life changes too.
- So far we have been discussing the way we make choices and the way we act. We are not yet evaluating whether an action is “good” or “bad”. For example we say that tradition refuses abortion, but a teenager wants an abortion. We just describe how the teenager makes her decision—but we are not evaluating it morally. Now we can ask: how do we weigh morally an action?
- We can think of two possible ways of moral evaluation. One is in terms of “life-plans” and the other in terms of “moral standards”. Let us begin with life-plans.
- When we make a plan, we are not necessarily limited to a very short span of time. I am on the way to the dining hall in order to get a glass of water. This glass of water is important in order to make me report better in class when I return to the classroom. So the plan of getting that glass of water is part of a bigger plan. This short-time plan is a step for a further plan. I want to make a better report in class in order to get a good grade. So my going to the dining hall is linked to getting a good grade. I want a good grade in order to have a nice presentation for any employment application I will later take, after I graduate. I will make that application for work in order to have more income and pay for future studies. Notice that one plan opens up to other plans. My going to the dining hall is part of a whole “life-plan”. So I can evaluate one action in view of the more general life plan I am having. How will this action today affect the outcome of my long term plans—and my total life plan itself? If, I notice, this action today will ruin my life plan, then I say that what I do today is “bad”. If my action today will support the realization of my future plans, then I say it is “good”.
- But a life-plan can ruin lives of other people. I am going to the dining hall for a drink of water…which leads to the far future of my desire to become a drug lord! Sure, I say that what I do now is “good”, but the reference to my life-plan is flimsy. We will need to consider another frame of reference—a “standard” not just related to life-plans but to a different frame of reference. Because this is a class in moral theology, that frame of reference will come from Jesus and the Church. Let us discuss this at another time.
Happiness: A Christian View
- “Happiness” is what people look for. We have many aspirations that we think can lead to happiness. In the Bible we do not read about “the path to happiness”. Instead we read: “Happy are you….” It is a call. It is a vocation.
- The beatitudes, as we say, is a “portrait” of Jesus. Jesus is poor, meek, he mourns, he is a man of mercy, his heart is pure, he works for peace, he is persecuted for justice. His way is the vocation of the Christian.
- The Christian vocation is to be lived to the full. It is a vocation to participate in the life of God. “…he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature….” (2Pt 1/ 4).
- The Beatitudes indicate that happiness is not a destiny but a result of God’s gift.Happiness is not a program to follow. It is living in confidence with God. We can look at Jesus and see in him the way of our lives. Jesus lived in full confidence to the Father—and it is what makes him happy.
- What about us? On what or on whom do we rely for our happiness? Where do we anchor our reconciliation and justice? What or who is it that we obey?
- Life is really to be called by many “voices”. These voices make demands on us and they solicit our engagements. We live in obedience to these voices. To eat, to have a place in society, to work, to participate in family life, etc. We engage in different “voices” of life that “call” us. “Come be part this” and “come be part of that”. We invest our time and efforts for these.
- Happiness, proposed by the Beatitudes, is rooted in the choice of Jesus whenever he is confronted by opposition to his message of the Kingdom. The happiness of Jesus is rooted in his love for the Father. The happiness proposed by the Beatitudes is to stay faithful to what truly guides our life, like Jesus who never gave up his mission and his love of the Father.
- Such a faithfulness expose our lives to a lot of challenges. Jesus himself had to face the criticism and the condemnation of many. All paths of life face suffering. Think of the piano player. Think of the mathematician. Think of the mother who raises her children. Think of the father who has to work each day, hours in the workplace. They passed through years of learning…but with passion. Think of thepassion a mother has for her children; the passion of the father to see his children grow and mature. Happiness is a life to live. This life has meaning when we reply to the question: what will I allow to reign over my life?
- We discern. The happiness proposed by the beatitudes call for a discernment on what should reign over our life.
- Take for example, a life in which we mourn. There is a mourning which is, in fact happy. It is the movement of going out of oneself, orienting life to God. It is far from getting stuck in regrets and resentments and bitterness. Remember the pilgrims of Emmaus? They were devastated by the death of Jesus. They were enclosed in their past and wounded by their own failure. This mourning of the Beatitudes allows us to enter, gradually, a life of more peace and calm even if it has pain. We mourn because we know that darkness need not be the mark of life…we mourn because we see how people choose darkness, and we mourn so that we all move to God.
- Happiness, in Christianity, results from a vocation in the way of the Beatitudes. It is a vocation—a call—to all of us. The sense of Christian life is not found in the happiness “of this world” but in risks and confidence that do not rely on the success “of this world”. This is why Christianity has saints who have had the taste to live in ways that others find distasteful.
- Is it not strange that there are people—saints—who preferred to live in poverty, humility, with a disposition for suffering? No they were not dis-embodied angels. They were humans in real flesh and blood. But they knew that humanity lives happily only when life is with God—between eternity and life today.
Some Moral Approaches and some Dilemmas
When we say “morality” we assumed that in general we all want “to be good”. What makes us “good?” What do we mean by “good”—the “good” that we want to be? Maybe we need a kind of “methodology”—or “approaches for moral thinking”. There are many types of moral thinking, and we have Catholic moral teaching to help us. Catholic moral teaching is somehow linked to other approaches to morality. It is helpful to consider the “approaches” that people use in making their moral choices. Later we can see how we make our choices as Catholics.
How do "other approaches” work?
The “relativist approach”
- Here actions are neither good or bad. The actions that we perform are simply moves of our gestures…they are pure movements. How do they become good—or bad? They are made good or bad relative to something…. See why it is also called “relativeapproach”? Our actions are good or bad relative to….or in relation to….
- There are a number of “relativist schools”. Let us look at some of them.
- One is known as “situation ethics”. An action is good or bad relative to situation. This school of moral thinking says that there are no fixed rules and norms of good or badthat we can apply to all our actions. We have to look at the situation in which the action is done to see whether the action is good or bad. Again, here there are no fixed norms. The best approach, says “situation ethics”, is to look at situations because situations say the “goodness” or “evil” of an action. See how it is relativistic? Good or bad is relative to the situation.
- “Situation ethics” insists that the person doing the action is the best guide to knowing whether the action is a good action or not. Why? This person doing the action knows best what is the situation. Take the example of a sexual action. Any sexual action is just “sex”—it is the use of the sexual body. It is neither good nor bad. One can “go to bed” with “anyone”—or just with oneself. It does not matter in any way. When is it good or bad? What makes “going to bed” good or bad? Look at the whole situation. The action is good or bad in relation to the situation. So when is the action good? It is good when done in love. “Going to bed”—and it is with anyone—is a good actionwhen it is a loving action. It is a “loving situation”. So long as the person doing it loves the other person, it becomes a good action.
- Ah, we might shout—“Hey, it can adultery going to bed with someone else’s spouse”. No, says situation ethics. So long as it is out of love, it is ok. The action is done for a loving reason. go ahead and do it. See the approach of situation ethics?
- The relativist can also be concerned with consequences. This is another school of the relativist approach—“consequentialism”. Here an action, again, is neither good nor bad. It becomes good or bad on the basis of its consequences. It is good or bad in relation to the results. An action is good or bad relative to results of the action.
- When doing an action, we look ahead and anticipate what the results are. Will there be lots of benefits rather than harm? If yes, then go ahead and perform the action. Think of stealing, or adultery, or telling a lie. The consequences will say if we should or should not perform the action. I want to steal money and I see that the consequence is that I can bring my son to school with that money. It looks beneficial—so the action of stealing is good. I want to “go to bed” with my neighbor’s spouse. It is going to help me psychologically, release the tensions inside of me and consequently it will make me more available to my family…so the result of adultery is ok. Good, then do it!
- There is one moral “approach” that is very attractive especially to the practical minded. This is known as “utilitarianism”. The utilitarian holds a basic principle by which an action is evaluated as either good or bad. First of all, just like the relativist, the utilitarian takes a neutral stand on action; action is neither good nor bad.
- But if an action gives benefit to many, then it is good. So the basic principle here is that action is good if it benefits the greatest number of people. But what does “benefit” mean? It means maximized pleasure and minimized pain. An action is good when it is beneficial—when it has more pleasure than pain. So, finally, the basic principle of the utilitarian is: pleasure for the majority.
- An action is good if most people receive pleasure from it—and with the least pain as possible.
- Let us go back to sex. Ok, if we try viewing it from a utilitarian perspective, it will mean that “going to bed with someone” is ok—it is good—if it really gives pleasure and a lot of other people are going to benefit from it. If by adultery sex helps give pleasure to my neighbor’s spouse—and helps improve the relationships in my own family, then…go ahead! It is not just myself alone who benefits—it’s a whole big affair!
- If by stealing one man’s money I feed a family of six—then go ahead. Six people get more pleasure than one. If by putting a criminal to death penalty—like hanging—it is ok if the whole society learns from it. Notice the idea of “majority” thinking.
The “legalist” obeying the Law
- Here is another “approach” for moral thinking called “legalism”. A legalist says that there are actions that are good or bad values independent of the person doing the action. There are actions which should never be done—never mind what people say, never mind what the acting person says. Just do not do the action because…it isobjectively bad.
- Circumstances, consequences and pleasure-pain are not important here. No matter what the circumstances are, no matter what the situation is, there are actions that we should never do.
- What is objective? Objective is that which is not dependent on our views and opinions. The law, for example, is the law whether we like it or not. The law forbids what we should not do. Maybe there are the Ten Commandments and the Laws of the Church. Obey the laws, do not break them. Actions are not done for pleasure nor for happiness—they are done for the laws.
- God is one lawgiver. He has given commandments to follow. So…follow them. If an action will break any of these, then the action is bad. What is prohibited is bad.
- For the legalist, the law is valid because the law is the law. An action is wrong in relation to the law that makes it wrong. So moral life is a life wherein we look for rules—and laws—and make sure we stay in the line. God has prohibited certain actions, so do not do them.
The “Categorical Imperative”
- This term, “categorical imperative”, specifies a particular way of looking at the human being as someone in action. This approach assumes that we are rational beings. Our capacity for reason makes an obligation or a command or an “imperative”.
- The categorical imperative demands performance of an action for its own sake. Just do the action—never mind the situation, never mind the consequence, never mind the pleasure, never mind what the law says. Just do the action. It is necessary to do the action.
- What is the basis for saying this? An action should be done if it can become a law for all humans. The command must hold for all—and this is what “categorical” means. When we do an action, we need to find out if this be allowed for everyone—all human beings—too.
- Let us say I want to steal. Can I make stealing a law for all humanity? Will I allow stealing to be done by anyone and everyone? If I steal, can I say that stealing be allowed for everyone? Of course not. An action is good if it is allowable for all humanity—without exception. If an action allows for an exception, then it is a bad action. If I say adultery can be practice by myself…never mind others…then adultery is bad. I cannot also say that adultery should be a rule—a law—for all humanity. So the categorical imperative would conclude that we should not—never ever—do adultery.
- There is a problem here, though. What if everyone—all humanity—decides to ignore the imperative? What if all humanity decides to accept stealing as a law? What if all humanity agrees to adultery? To answer this the “categorical imperative” approach adds something interesting: "Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in yourself or anybody else, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means." In other words, when we do an action, we have to see that we do not make people “means”.
- I go to bed with someone—my neighbor’s spouse—for my pleasure. So the other person is a means to my end. The categorical imperative will say this is bad. I will steal money. Sure, the money can be used for the education of my son, but I make the victim a means to an end. This too is bad.
- Notice then that the categorical imperative looks legalistic—but the law is not something outside like a written law to follow. It is legalistic in the sense that we ourselves have to be vigilant with the “law” that should hold for all and that should not treat others as mere means.
The “golden rule”
- This approach is simple and you may know it well. The golden rule states that we treat others as how we want them to treat us. It is best interpreted as saying: "Treat others only as you accept to being treated in the same way." I shall consider how I am going to receive the action of someone else in the exactly the same way I am acting towards that person. If we do action in a way toward another, and yet we do not want to be treated that way, then we violate the rule.
- To apply the golden rule, we need to know what our actions can do to others. Then we imagine ourselves in the shoes of those persons.
- Here is one thought experiment: pretend that we are starting from zero in this society or community. Set aside our talents, our good or bad qualities….set them aside. Everyone here starts from zero. Nobody is to be considered “better” or “worse”, “richer” or “poorer”. This assumes, therefore, that we are now all equal. Now start moving—start making this society or community live. Because we assume that nobody is better or worse, nobody is preferred from anyone else, we cannot start by saying that some will be put in a better status than others. We are forced to consider this society or community from the perspective of the weak members. We will ask how would people feel is they were put in this or that status?
- This “experiment” is a way of applying the golden rule: what would people feel if we do this or that to them? How would I feel if the action is done to me? If I do not like it done to me, why should I do it to others?
Workshop on Difficult Situations:
There are four possible situations we often meet or might meet one day. These difficulties require decisions. Read them. You will be assigned one case. Your work is to see how you can apply the approaches above to the case assigned to you. Which approach seems to apply best for you?
- Truth vs. Loyalty: Truth, in simple terms, means in conformity with facts or reality. Loyalty means allegiance to a person, or to an institution…. Sometimes both are opposed. What do you do? Here is an example: The congregation has saved a good amount of money. Brother Dokle thinks that the future of his congregation lies in putting that money on formation. Brother Pepeng, however, insists that the money be used for the improvement of the school building of which Brother Pepe is the principal. The truth, for Brother Dokle, is that the formation of the young brothers is in decline. Too much effort is given to the apostolates, forgetting the formation of the young brothers. But Brother Dokle is loyal to Brother Pepeng. They are brothers to each other—they live fraternally. He sees what is so important for Brother Pepe and it will hurt Brother Pepe to shift the use of money. It is hard to convince Brother Pepe to another alternative—so Brother Dockle is in a dilemma. What should Brother Dokle do when he knows formation is priority yet fraternal relationship should not be hurt.
- Individual vs. Community: “Individual” here means each person pursues his own interests and by starting with oneself the social good would emerge. By “community” is meant that the needs of the majority are more important than the interests of the individual. It is right to consider the individual but it is also right to consider the community. Here is an example: In the community, Brother Russu is the head—the “superior”. He listens to the brothers. Brother Kokok, a staff, insists that better structures be created in the community like prayer time, study time and time for meeting counselors. There must be more time for group work. But Brother Mokie, a formand, wants a reduction of structures. He says that Brothers need space for themselves—time to relax more and meet people elsewhere. Brother Koko says that the community needs better formation. Brother Mokie says that each member needs to relax and take it easy. Brother Russu sees the validity of each position, but he is inclined to accept the position of Brother Kokok because this brother is a staff member. What do you think?
- Short-Term vs. Long-Term: Short-term concerns are usually associated with the satisfaction of needs right now. Long-term concerns the future interests. It is right to think and plan short-term, but it is also right to think and plan long-term. Here is an example: Mr. Bongao wants to go abroad and work there. He has a child and his wife is pregnant. He is thinking of the long term future of his family, especially regarding the financial conditions. Y working abroad he can save money and send his kids to college. But he also knows that if he goes, his children will not know him too well. They will not be familiar with him—with his face. An alienation can happen. So if he stays, now, he can be friends with his children but have no assurance of the future college plans. What can Mr. Bongao do?
- Justice vs. Mercy: Justice means sticking by principles and rules even in pressures of the moment. It means fairness and not attention to personalities. Mercy means care for the peculiar needs on a case by case basis. Mercy seeks compassion in every way possible. It is right to be merciful and it is right to enforce justice. Here is an example: Chuppy is a depressed student. He was so in love with Charise but the relationship broke down. His father has been drinking and so the family is not at ease. Mrs. Sopak is his teacher. Chuppy goes to her and asks her to exempt him from attending class for three weeks. Chuppy says that he knows the subject matter of the class anyway. He needs time for himself, he needs to relax. The school policy says that an absence of four days means penalty. But Chuppy asks for three weeks, which is more than allowed. Furthermore, the other students will feel it wrong to allow their classmate free for three weeks while they stay in class. Yet, Mrs. Sopak feels the pain of Chuppy. She has to decide. What can she do?