August 11, 2010

Embodying the Word

by Tobias Winright 
Catholic Lectionary Readings: Rv 11:19; 12:1-10; Ps 45:10-16; 1 Cor 15:20-27; Lk 1:39-56

Moral theology, which is also known today as Christian or theological ethics, seeks to help Christians answer two fundamental questions: 1) Who ought we as a community and as individual Christians be? 2) What ought we as a community and individuals do? The first question has to do with the kind of character and virtues we ought to have; the second has to do with how we ought to make decisions and ought to act.

Paul’s letter to the Christian community in Corinth says, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20). Catholic ethicists Russell B. Connors, Jr. and Patrick T. McCormick note that this theological claim is the heart of our faith, which “affirms that we have experienced redemption as embodied spirits, and that the power of God’s redemptive grace permeates every dimension of our lives….”

Christianity is not only about spirituality, but discipleship – a way of life, of being and behaving in this world. This pertains to all spheres of life, from family to work, politics to recreation, and education to economics. Mary’s Magnificat from Luke’s gospel does not merely refer to some spiritual truth. When Mary sings that God “has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts,” and the Savior “has brought down the powerful from their thrones… lifted up the lowly… filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Lk 1 51-53), she announces a new way of being community inaugurated with the impending birth of her son, Jesus.

As the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” put it, “This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age” (no. 43). When we are blessed to “Go forth in peace, to love and serve the Lord” at the end of the Mass, let’s really mean it when we say “Thanks be to God” and allow God’s grace to enable us to embody Christ’s love.

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