Grace to you!
We continue our Lenten reflections centered on the virtuous life. My apologies for missing a couple of days. Lots of things, urgent call to charity and justice, came in the way. I hope you bear with me. Today, I reflect on how God’s Law is for us a secure goalpost for a virtuous life.
You remember those times you set a goal to do something good for a neighbor. It could be to help her move. Or it could be to help her mow the lawn. It could be to help a friend decongest his full mail box when he is out of town, etc.
You knew to fulfil your commitment, you may have to cut down on your leisure time. You may have to leave work earlier, even if it negatively affects your paycheck, in order to attend to this call to service. You had a goal. Perhaps, inspired by concern for the neighbor. It’s for something good for a neighbor. It borders on generosity. You designed a path to fulfill the goal. That part, at least momentarily, becomes for you a rule, a personal guide for action, or an action plan. You stuck to it. Good news—you meet the goal.
Every goal-setting has an aspect of rules. Those rules make it possible to fulfill the goals. Ignore them, one fails woefully. Living a virtuous life implies a series of goals and a series of rules. Following them, one is cultivating a pattern of life, a consistent pattern of life. One is building one’s self. One is more and more becoming the dream of one’s best self.
An aspect of virtue-based ethics is the consideration of what ethicist and philosopher Christine Swanton calls “target-centred” view of rightness (2003, p.231). Though this has its flaws, as many theories do, it sheds light on some points related to our faith-based understanding of virtue.
You would agree that helping those in need, being kind, loving one’s neighbor, telling the truth, etc., as examples of virtuous life, are welcome by virtually everyone. What is most difficult is how to do so. Also is knowing when and how best in any concrete situations to do so—practical wisdom.
Well, Scripture presents us some guide on doing so God’s way. It shows us some targets or rules, or laws to abide by and walk with to reach the goal.
We read a powerful message how Moses presents God’s law to the people as a requirement for reaching their collective goal, namely, to “live, go in and possess the Land promised by the Lord” (see Dt 4:1). One may suggest it could also be seen as the rule for their reaching their ultimate desire as individuals and as a people. Nothing is better than possessing our ultimate aspirations, owning our flourishing destiny.
The Lord Jesus emphasizes this point about God’s Law as a guide to our inheritance of divine promise. He says he comes not to abolish the law but to fulfil it. He encourages us to pay attention to what God has said, what God has commanded (Mt 5:17-19). Those are a clear path to virtuous life. They are a clear path to fulfilled life and eternal happiness.
At least we have a target mapped out for us in Scripture. We have a plan of action. We have a target, a goal and a path as we live the life of faith in the Risen Lord.
In your bucket list of virtue this Lent include that path, the guide, the moral law, which the Lord has presented as a path guiding you. Do so walking in the light of faith in the Lord. You would see that your life would continue to grow in virtue.
Praying for the grace of commitment to our promises and the goal.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday, Lent Week 3: Dt. 4:1, 5-9; Mt. 5: 17-19]
Father Maurice Emelu, Ph.D., provides a daily blog of reflections for the season of Lent your individual spiritual edification. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations. .