“For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.” (Wis 11:24)
You have often heard it mentioned from the parish pulpit, and these bulletin pages, that the three transcendental properties that subsist in all created things are beauty, truth, and goodness. All created things have these inherent properties as they reflect the Creator, who when beheld, is all Beautiful, True and Good. Today, with the prompting of our quotation above taken from this Sunday’s first reading, we will focus on goodness.
The notion of goodness eludes the modern world. This is because it has limited the idea of the good to only one of its aspects: that which benefits the individual person or subject. Now there is some truth to the subjectivity of the good as it applies to the physical world, since what is materially good for one person may not be good for another person (e.g. medicine). However, when we consider another aspect of the good – morality or virtue – we see that there are some actions which are always good (i.e. objectively good or good for everyone).
Objective goodness rests in God. God is the “omega” (Rev: 22:13), that ultimate good which all objects and subjects tend toward or desire. The wing blowing, the deer leaping, and the man formulating each achieve actions particular to their respective species through the joyful will of God. We call such actions “perfections” since by the acting out of powers proper to them, things, animals, or persons actually achieve their divine purpose. We call the function and fulfilment of all these natural powers “the natural law” believing that God is the origin of this “law” which flows through the veins of his creation.
Sadly, the devil has sown into our earthly condition an “unnatural” or unintended purpose to disrupt the perfections which God created and desires for his creatures. Humanity now challenges the natural law by prompting each person to say “I am the decider of good” in many areas established by God: life and death, morality and sexuality; gender and personal identity. So let us pause and remember.
On this 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, we place on our bulletin cover a work by painter John Everett Millais entitled Dew Drenched Furze (1890). Here we find Millais fully wrought in his landscape phase having reached his goal of serene naturalism just six years before his death.
Furze grows in Ireland, England and Scotland and as a young plant has succulent leaves like young hemlock but which become spiny in older age. Because the plants on Millais’ forest floor are drenched in dew it cannot be known if the furze is young or old. Yet, Millais purposely leaves out the plant’s bright yellow flowers to give his observer a strong sense of the primordial world full of the original purpose of God.
Perhaps it is well to recall some words of Hamlet to his beloved Ophelia: “God has given you one face, and you make yourself another”. This we do each time we seek our human happiness and identity outside of the natural law. God gives us the natural because he desires our good, so that our lives will be serene. Instead, we have chosen agitation, confusion, and havoc.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services