Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Authentic Moral Action

I had been awaiting a complete English translation of this address for sometime now. It is Pope Benedict's address to the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission which met in Rome in late April 2006. You can find the address here. The address touches on one of the themes to which I have made plenty of my time studying: human action. In this address, Pope Benedict offers a beautiful reflection on the model for "authentic moral action" - Jesus Christ:
He makes his will coincide with the will of God the Father in the acceptance and carrying out of his mission: his food is to do the Father's will (cf. Jn 4: 34). He always does the things that are pleasing to the Father, putting his words into practice (cf. Jn 8: 29-55); he says the things that the Father asked him to say and to proclaim (cf. Jn 12: 49).

In revealing the Father and his way of acting, Jesus at the same time reveals the norms of upright human action. He affirms this connection in an explicit and exemplary way when, in concluding his teaching on loving one's enemies (cf. Mt 5: 43-47), he says: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5: 48).

This divine, divine-human, perfection becomes possible for us if we are closely united with Christ, our Savior.
This perfection is possible in this life. It is not some unattainable ideal as some people want us to believe. We just have to unite ourselves closely with Christ because it is "the incarnate Logos who enables us to share in his divine life and sustains us with his grace on the journey towards our true fulfillment."

Christ, as the Word made flesh, lived out this very life to which God calls us to live. Indeed, Jesus does not simply ask us to follow him, but also through Baptism, Christ "allows us to participate in his own life, thereby enabling us to understanding his teaching and to put into practice." As followers of Christ, initiated into the divine life of God himself, we are invited "to enter into communion of life with him and to accept in faith and joy his 'easy' yoke and his 'light' burden (cf. Mt 11:28-30)." We are not alone in living out our Christian lives but rather we participating in the very life of Christ himself. So our task is to grow ever deeper in union with Christ.

And by uniting ourselves ever more closely to Christ, we can see "what man really is" because Christ, the Word made flesh, illuminates for us who man definitively is.
Consequently, the relationship with Christ defines the loftiest realization of man's moral action. This human action is directly based on obedience to God's law, on union with Christ and on the indwelling of the Spirit in the believer's soul. It is not an action dictated by merely exterior norms, but stems from the vital relationship that connects believers to Christ and to God.
So authentic moral action has two major components. First, the action must be in obedience to God's law. We must never act in disobedience to God's law. But the external obedience to God's law is not enough. Second, the action must be based upon our union with Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. So it is with grace and the participation in the life of Christ, and our openness to God's will that we find ourselves as authentic moral actors, living a life towards our true and fulfilling destiny in the fullness of God himself.

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