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By Chester Jay R. Tolentino
On 23 December 2006 at 10:51am, while I rested in my room, a former student, a friend, texted me asking, ‘Sir Ches, y s dr a nid 2 b moral?’(Why is there a need to be moral?)
At that moment I felt joy because a person I had been praying for had come to seek a deeper meaning to life. I prayed before replying, ‘To live a moral life is a reason of our existence, the beginning of true peace and freedom. A person who chooses to be immoral will be cut off from the source of goodness, GOD – who is Goodness Himself. Today, people are unaware of the source of the miseries they encounter. They fail to realize, it’s because they live in sin, our real problem’.
She then requested that I write an essay about the need to be moral for her to have a basis for her reflection paper. I replied, ‘I will! Pray that the Holy Spirit may guide me so that it would be free from error.’
From that time on, I considered writing an article regarding that question and asked for guidance in prayer.
Search for Happiness
I had read numerous books regarding morality but didn’t have these resources with me. Some of these were the CATECHISM of the CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC) with its authoritative teachings and explanations, the exemplary encyclical of our late Pope John Paul II, VERITATIS SPLENDOR (The Splendor of Truth), and the works of St Augustine and many other saints. I had to trust the Holy Spirit for what I was planning to write. Beforehand, I was thinking of referring to those excellent books for her to read but in my heart, there was a prompting to write. I asked inspiration from the Holy Spirit Who finally guided me to write this article at 10 o’clock in the evening.
‘Why is there a need to be moral?’ is a question at the heart of every man even if he is not really that aware of it.
St Augustine confessed, ‘And yet this man, this minute part of Your creation, desires to praise You. You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.’
No wonder everyone is seeking for true happiness in life. We all desire freedom but most of the time we don’t really find what we are looking for. We strive too hard to have wealth, fame and power but when we get there or have it, why are we still empty and looking for something more or better? Others might see that we acquire good things and are blessed, but are we really? Only our hearts can tell, not even our intellect, because many times our mind deceives us.
How do we save our soul?
The capacity of our hearts to accept God’s grace is so immense that it could surely contain the Uncontainable – God Himself – when we are disposed. Who could ever imagine this, that our hearts could only be filled with created things? Of course not! Even if you possess all things you will never have enough because a person who is not filled with God totally is incomplete. As Scripture says, ‘What does a man profit if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?’
If God alone is what we need to be fulfilled then why is there still a need to be moral?
Let us learn from the experience of our Lord Jesus, in the account of the ‘Rich Young Man’ in the gospel of Mark 10:17-22, a man who represents all of us, the longing of our hearts.
Road to happines
The man asked, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ This question, which cannot be disregarded even by the richest, most famous or the most powerful man in the world, is a reality in the soul of everyone. This is a question that resounds always in the recesses of our heart – eternal life. ‘What must I do to be happy?’ ‘How should I act or strive to be loved and listened to?’ ‘I need somebody to give me care and attention for me to experience true happiness’. What do we feel when we are ‘cut off’ from our loved ones?
Jesus then replied, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone!’
‘Why do you call me good?’ is a question originating from the goodness of God Himself that we can perceive through our senses from His creation. Most of the time, we focus on what is good in creation but forget its source. Why do we seek education? Is it not because it is good? Why do we spend our time in pursuit of wealth and money? Of course, because it is good. When God created the Universe, as we read in the Book of Genesis, He saw that it was good.
But Jesus added, ‘No one is good but God alone’. When we focus in having wealth or enjoyment in creatures, they will exclaim to us, ‘We are not God. ‘We are not good in ourselves. We are not the end . . .’ That’s why when our mind and will are directed on created things, our morality will be affected because created things in themselves without God wither and perish.
God is the One who must be sought alone in Himself and through His Holy presence in creation. If we seek not Him, our hearts will be restless because created things are never enough. A person who doesn’t love his Creator alone will seek affection and amass things just to appease his own heart, which they can never do. The more he seeks aside from God, the more he is deprived, because his endeavors will turn to vanity unless God delivers him.
When man seeks for something more to fill himself, pride, greed, avarice, gluttony, envy, lust, anger and sloth come in. The capital sins deceive and mislead us to turn our backs on ‘No one is good but God alone’.
So that we don’t stray
Jesus continued, ‘You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Do not defraud. Honor your father and your mother’.
When we are misled, sin comes. Sin weakens our relationship with God, separating us from His merciful love. The Ten Commandments are given to us not merely as ‘dos and don’ts’ but as a loving admonition from God for us not to be separated from Him, who is the Source of all good. They are the infallible guide to morality because their essence is applicable at all times and to all generations.
When we choose to depart from God’s commands, we choose to sin. We separate ourselves from God, depending upon the gravity of our acts. Then, a person becomes restless and miserable. The one who is in this state will have no good in himself because he is cut off from the source of goodness. He has chosen the created rather than the Creator. Not everything that God has created, however good, will always be good for every man. ‘You may eat any tree in the Garden but not the tree in the center’. It is a command towards charity – a limitation that leads to freedom.
When we violated the command ‘Do not eat it for you will surely die’ we were stripped of Life, of God Himself. So we became naked and hid from God because of our own negligence and weakness. The original dignity we had was lost, not because God willed it, but through our own fault.
How then can you be truly happy when you have no life in you because Life Itself does not dwell in you? We can try to show to others that we are happy by assuming or projecting a happy appearance but we can never deny what is contained in our hearts.
There is a need to be moral at all times so that we can receive the grace of God.
This is but a door . . . the beginning of true happiness . . .
To paraphrase a quote from St Augustine, ‘To be free from crimes such as murder, adultery, theft, etc, is not yet freedom in itself, just the beginning of true freedom’.
True peace and happiness are real. I am a witness to this.
After reading this, Duc in altum . . . Put out into the deep . . .
God Bless You. . . .
You may email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org