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Monday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, November 6, 2023


On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees. He said to the host who invited him, "When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."


Reflection

What stood out to me in this Gospel was when Jesus said not to invite your friends or relatives to your gathering less they may repay you, rather invite those because of their inability to repay you. After some reflection I took this as Jesus advising us not to seek out recognition or repayment when we do good deeds. We should strive to do good things for the sake of them being good and wanting to be good. This concept reminded me of St. Thomas Aquinas who had plenty to say about the good, virtues and habits.


In his Summa Theologica, he states that the fundamental principle of the natural law is that good is to be done and evil avoided. He gives two ways to describe the good, first as something desirable, we desire what is good, and second as perfection, we seek what perfects us. This emphasizes the idea that we are naturally drawn towards what is good and that the pursuit of goodness is a path to human perfection, in this case doing good things for the sake of them being good and wanting to be good. Furthermore, to Aquinas love means to consistently will and choose the good of the other. To love neighbor as thy self, making the choice to love and choose good. This takes humility, selflessness, genuine kindness, and compassion to reach this level of good.


But how do we get to the point where we perform these acts of kindness without expecting anything in return? How do we reach this level of good? How do we start to do good things simply because they are good and not for ulterior motives? Well Aquinas would say with virtue and good habits. Aquinas describes virtue as aligning with reason, choice and passion at the top above continence, incontinence and vice. For example, saying a rosary. Virtue would be, you know saying a rosary is good for you, so you say the rosary and you enjoy it. Continence would be, you know saying a rosary is good, you say it, but you don’t enjoy it; incontinence would be you know saying the rosary is good and you don’t say it; and vice would be you don’t even admit saying a rosary is good. To move through these levels up to virtue requires good habits, practicing well everyday with careful action and intensity till you finally enjoy doing your good habits. In doing so you will reach the point where since you enjoy these good habits it becomes second nature and you do good for the sake of it being good. It is a process of aligning reason, choice, and passion in a way that makes doing good a natural and enjoyable part of our lives.


In essence, both the Gospel passage and the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas encourage us to cultivate a virtuous and selfless disposition. They remind us that it's possible to leave our ego-driven desires and turn away from evil. Instead work towards a state where we perform acts of kindness for the sake of their inherent goodness. It's a journey of personal growth that can lead to a more compassionate and altruistic way of life.

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