(Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Park Ridge: 8am; Saint Catherine’s Church, Jimboomba: 5.30pm)
14 July 2013
(Readings: Deut 30:10-14; Ps 68; Col 1:15-20; Lk 10:25-37)
It’s become very common to hear it said that “there’s no absolute right and wrong.” The impression is given that some people believe that “something’s right if I say it’s right.” Others will say, “you can’t tell me what’s right or wrong.” It’s questioned whether there is a moral law that applies to everyone, from which we can’t escape.
But, what’s going on when we say things like: “That’s not fair,” or “you promised,” or “leave him alone, he wasn’t bothering you,” or “that was very kind of you?” Underneath all these statements is something objective: how else could we judge fairness, or kindness; or the fact that promises mean something, or even that people have a right to something. When we say things like this, we are assuming that there is a basic morality that is objective and that applies to all people.
We believe such a moral consciousness comes from a personal, intelligent law-giver: namely God. St Thomas Aquinas speaks of the natural law, written in our hearts, that is a reflection of the mind of God. The sense of moral obligation that we feel is the voice of God within us, or the echo of the voice of God within us.
John Henry Newman said that our conscience is the awareness of the moral law in all its implications for us. Conscience is the voice of God urging us on, critiquing us when necessary, and rewarding us when appropriate (urging, critiquing, and rewarding). When we are in touch with our conscience – the awareness of the moral law – we know we are in the presence of some-ONE who is talking to us. When we make moral decisions we are in the presence of someone who is urging us on, or who is disappointed in the decision we’ve made, or who is happy with the decision we’ve made.
All of this flows out of our First Reading today. Moses – the great law-giver, says to the people: Obey the VOICE of the Lord your God, keeping those commandments and laws of his that are written in the Book of this Law …” But he goes on to say that this Law is not beyond our reach or our strength … it is not in heaven or beyond the seas, such that we need to find someone to go and get it and bring it to us. No, he says, the Word is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your HEART.
The voice of the Lord speaks in our heart: urging us, critiquing us, rewarding us.
Perhaps you’ve heard people talk about “Catholic guilt.” Often it’s spoken of as being something silly, something you need to “get over” or indeed something that you should “grow out of” if you’re going to be “mature.” Now its not good if we’ve done something that induces guilt. However, the fact that we have guilt – or a guilty conscience – is a good thing. That’s the voice of God, alerting us that we’ve strayed from His law, His way. We feel it because that law of the Lord is written in our hearts – it’s that close to us.
Sometimes people suffer for years because they don’t listen to the voice of God in their hearts. Sometimes there’s something in someone’s life that needs healing, or forgiveness, and until they listen to that niggling of their conscience and attend to it, their peace is disturbed. It’s not that we’re being punished, but rather that we’re being made aware that we’ve strayed off God’s path, and we need to repent and receive God’s forgiveness and healing.
When we sin, we mar the image of God in us. And when we sin gravely/seriously/mortally (whatever you want to call it) we kill the life of grace in our souls – we can’t even receive sacramental grace until we repent and are forgiven. And so our “guilty conscience” is in fact the voice of God calling us back, unsettling us so that we’ll put things right – or rather, allow God to put things right.
Our sins do to our souls what happened to the man who was robbed and beaten and left by the side of the road half dead. That’s what sin does to our soul. It wounds us, it leaves us battered and bruised, even – to all appearences – dead. Jesus is the one who comes along who bandages our wounds, who pours healing ointment on them, and who carries us to refuge.
The difference, though, with the story, is that we can block Jesus doing that, and indeed he wants us to knowingly appreciate the gift he so freely gives, and to actively receive the gift. Like if I hold out a present to you, you have the choice of taking it from me, or not.
And so, let us listen to the voice of God which speaks in our hearts, let us obey that voice, so that we can return to the Lord our God with all our heart and soul. Jesus, our Saviour, wants us to receive the healing and restoration that only God can give.
+ + +
The first part of this homily is from a homily by Fr Robert Barron: http://www.wordonfire.org/WOF-Radio/Sermons/Sermon-Archive-for-2013/Sermon-653-Hearing-the-Voice-of-God-15th-Sunday.aspx