Reflections on Veritatis Splendor by Alfred McBride, O.Praem. To review books by Fr. Mc Bride: (The Millennium : End of Time? a New Beginning? (1998--$8.76), Father McBride's Family Catechism (1998--$7.96) or Father McBride's Teen Catechism (1996--$7.19) at our on-line book store, click on the blue.

How To Make Moral Decisions


John the Baptist is the first evangelizer to appear in the New Testament. Many believe that he began his career as a member of the Qumran community. The Dead Sea Scrolls tell us about this holy community housed near the shores of the Dead Sea. They prized prayer and fasting. John also lived an ascetic life. They engaged in frequent ritual baths (baptisms) to symbolize their quest for moral purity. John called for only one water cleansing, or baptism, to get ready for the messianic baptism in water and the Holy Spirit. As the son of Zachary the priest, he was welcomed into the priestly Qumran community.

John differed from his mentors in one major aspect. They had become a monastic elite. They huddled together far from the world and took a superior attitude to outsiders whom they characterized as "people of darkness." John believed he should go out into the world and call people to repentance for their sins. He believed they were sinners, but they could be converted and brought into the kingdom of God. He prepared them for the Savior of the World.

John's elitist teachers foretold that a "teacher of righteousness - morality" would soon arrive. John's audiences on the banks of the Jordan expected a political messiah, a king like David, who would liberate them from oppression. But John judged that his Qumran colleagues were wrong. The Messiah would be more than a teacher of ethics; he would actually save people from immorality.

John also realized his audiences were wrong. The Messiah would indeed be a savior, not from political problems, but from the sins that lay at the root of all oppression. John believed the best way to get ready for Christ was moral reform. This would open their hearts to the spiritual rebirth that the new and real Savior would bring. The first evangelizer began with moral change.

Immediately after the Pentecost experience, Peter preached of Jesus as the Savior from sin and the giver of divine life. The crowd asked, "What shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus.

Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Both John the Baptist and Peter demonstrate that evangelizing begins with a challenge to moral change.

"In proclaiming the ... content of Christian morality, the new evangelization will show its authenticity and unleash all its missionary force when it is carried out through ... the word proclaimed ... [and] the word lived" (No. 107).

John Paul II urges moral theologians to assist the Church in this vital task of evangelizing the world. "Moral theologians, who have accepted the charge of teaching the Church's doctrine, thus have a grave duty to train the faithful to make this moral discernment, to be committed to the true good and to have confident recourse to God's grace" (No. 113).

The pope also engages the bishops and priests of the Church to join in the evangelizing mission especially as it touches on moral responsibilities. Their prophetic calling automatically involves them in moral issues and the courageous teaching associated with a prophetic mission. Their priestly role must move them to summon the People of God to a life of holiness and to provide them, in the sacraments, the graces of sanctification. Their role as shepherds should ever remind them that people must not be abandoned. "Especially today, Christian moral teaching must be one of the chief areas in which we exercise our pastoral vigilance in carrying out our shepherding role. (No. 114).

The Holy Father concludes his encyclical with a meditation on Mary and her role in the plan of salvation: "0 Mary, / mother of mercy, / watch over all people, / that the Cross of Christ / may not be emptied of its power, / that man may ... / ... put his hope ever more fully in God / who is 'rich in mercy' (Eph 2:4) " (No. 120).

As I end my own brief series of reflections on this magnificent encyclical, I thank God for the moral wisdom and courage of Pope John Paul II. In our own culture, we are engaged in a battle for the soul of each and every one of our people. The moral life is a central factor in this struggle. The Holy Father shows us what Jesus asks.

I hope we will say, "Yes, Lord."

  These syndicated articles are copyrighted by Our Sunday Visitor and are purchased with donations made to the Friends of the Good News who support this newsletter. Fr. McBride writes for Our Sunday Visitor. All quoted matter is from the encyclical, unless otherwise indicated. 1998 Our Sunday Visitor. Used by subcription. This article appeared in the June l999 edition of The San Francisco Charismatics (ISSN 1098-4046) a member of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.
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