Many words today are overused. In some cases, various words have lost their original meaning. One of these is undoubtedly the word ‘good’ which, deprived of its relationship with kerygma and human history, many believe to be a kind of spontaneous autogenesis.
What is good? Do our choices construct paths of good? There is no doubt that many of our choices are often driven by a desire to put personal interests or goods before the common good. This is where the moral problem arises, or better still, what is the moral good in a given situation, with the consequent reflection on the moral norms that should guide our actions.
It is no wonder that so many, faced with life’s adversities, ask themselves why they continue to do good. Is it worth it? Cui prodest?
It is a question that can be approached from different perspectives. If we approach it with Kantian philosophy, we would say that we must do good because it is reasonable. If we were Hegelian, we would resort to normativism. If we followed utilitarianism, we would say that we must do good to be good. One could go on giving other examples from different philosophical and religious approaches.
As believers, when we speak of the good, we refer to the personal and communal encounter with God through Jesus Christ, who envisages a path to goodness. Now our experience of good in Christ Jesus always has a historical character insofar as it is situated within the personal history of every man and is linked to the historical events that transversally affect humanity.
Our moral experience is linked to the Christ Jesus event and is filtered by the culture in which we live. The same culture, at certain moments in history, gives a greater or lesser weight to certain choices. In the cultural melting pot in which we live, we must discern the signs of the times that God transforms into events of salvation.
The Christian experience is studded with the presence of God, who, through events, becomes providence and indicates paths to be travelled decisively to give steps of good. One could say that to choose the good is to say yes to one’s vocation as a person who lives in and for others on the path to salvation.
The moral experience of the past, seen as a true history that becomes magistra vitae, can challenge the believer’s conscience, indicating decisive choices for moral commitment for today. It is not a matter of repeating past choices but of being questioned by the criteria of discernment that led to the identification of feasible steps towards the good.
The relationship between history and kerygma, which gives life to human choices and action, is never a-historical. Every man, every generation, must always start again from the encounter with Christ Jesus, giving meaning to his action for the Kingdom of Heaven.
Fr. Alfonso V. Amarante, C.Ss.R.