Put the snow on the ground and today’s gospel reading together, and we realize: the Winter of the Sermon on the Mount has not yet ended.
The Law. The Lord proposed a set of laws to a people–to our people, the People of God. The law binds, and its precepts oblige us to sometimes-difficult acts of self-denial. Because the precepts of the moral law all rest on one fundamental concept: loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
We Catholics do not always have the same take on civil law that some of our countrymen have. We hold what a lot of people regard as “quirky” positions.
We would say that our positions are not quirky, but rather proceed logically from our fundamental presumption that laws concern, above all, the common good. A law is: “An ordinance of reason directed to the common good.” St. Thomas Aquinas. All cases do not fit one mold, of course, and individual liberty must be preserved–but always as measured with respect to the common good.
Someone might then ask us, “Well, do you insist on a common sexual morality for the sake of the common good? Or do you insist on government action to address economic injustice for the common good? Is your issue the sanctity of marriage and family, or is it poverty, “income inequality?”
To which question, we blithely answer, Yes. Greta van Susteren could ask us, or Rachel Maddow–and the answer would be the same. “Are you Catholics more hung up on sexual morality and unborn babies, or on championing the cause of the immigrant and the poor?” Yes.
A lot of people think we hold our quirky positions because we have a quirky religion. The irony is that we hold our positions precisely because we don’t have a quirky religion.
We don’t hold the false religion that ridiculously maintains that an individual’s unchaste acts don’t have any consequences for other people. We are totally secular when it comes to that religion, so we can see with our own eyes that it isn’t true. One person acts unchastely, another person suffers for it.
Nor do we hold the false religion that ridiculously maintains that an invisible force called “the market” will automatically keep poor people from suffering inhuman burdens. We are totally secular when it comes to that religion, too, and we see with our own eyes that it isn’t true. We see the obvious fact that some people enjoy the blessed privilege of using capital creatively, and they should be rewarded for it. But not everyone does–most people don’t, in fact. The wealth of our nation belongs to everyone, and everyone must have a decent share in it.
Also, we hold the outlandish position–held also by quirky people like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr.–that prayer and religion hold the key to a nation having just laws. We believe the first duty we have as a nation is to God, Who knows better than we do how to govern, and that we will thrive precisely to the extent that we submit to His gracious will. May He gives us the wisdom to continue to live together in this country in a just and loving manner.