Central idea: Be good. Doctrine: Forming conscience and decision-making. Practical application: Form and obey your conscience.
Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.) This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directoryissued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014).
Central idea: Be good
Reading 1 Sir 27:4-7
When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear;
so do one’s faults when one speaks.
As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace,
so in tribulation is the test of the just.
The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had;
so too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind.
Praise no one before he speaks,
for it is then that people are tested.
- As Christ teaches in the Gospel reading today, “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil.”
- The good or evil in us is not producedby our speech and actions but revealedby them, especially when we are faced with adversity.
- The question for a person who wants to be good is not how always to appear good to others but how to be actually good inside, so the outside matches the inside.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praise to your name, Most High,
To proclaim your kindness at dawn
and your faithfulness throughout the night.
The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.
They that are planted in the house of the LORD
shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall bear fruit even in old age;
vigorous and sturdy shall they be,
Declaring how just is the LORD,
my rock, in whom there is no wrong.
- The experience of the kindness of the Lord is both a present reality and a promise in eternity.
- The person who strives with the help of God’s grace to be just is happy and experiences good things, even in the midst of the sorrows and difficulties of this life.
- The person who is faithful experiences the kindness of the Lord and bears good fruit even in old age, even especially in old age.
- The kindness of the Lord is also a promise for eternity. It will only be in heaven that we will able to praise God without reservation and flourish fully.
Reading 2 1 Cor 15:54-58
Brothers and sisters:
When this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility
and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality,
then the word that is written shall come about:
Death is swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters,
be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord,
knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
- The “work of the Lord” which Christ calls us to be “full devoted to” is to do God’s will, which is to do good and avoid evil in our thoughts, words, and deeds.
- Yet we still fail to perfectly obey the moral law and so we sin, and as persons under the curse of original sin, we die.
- Yet Christ will raise us from the dead. He will give those who belong to him incorruptible, immortal bodies.
Alleluia Phil 2:15d, 16a
Shine like lights in the world
as you hold on to the word of life.
- Christ is the Light of the World.
- We are also little lights of the world in our own day if we reflect the being, goodness (the justice and charity), truth, beauty, and home of Christ in our lives.
Gospel Lk 6:39-45
Jesus told his disciples a parable,
“Can a blind person guide a blind person?
Will not both fall into a pit?
No disciple is superior to the teacher;
but when fully trained,
every disciple will be like his teacher.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’
when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?
You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.
“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,
nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.
For every tree is known by its own fruit.
For people do not pick figs from thorn bushes,
nor do they gather grapes from brambles.
A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good,
but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil;
for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”
- Everyone follows someone or something.
- Who or what we follow can lead us to life or death, goodness or evil, truth or falsehood, beauty or ugliness, communion or alienation.
- Christ claims he is the teacher and exemplar we should follow to come into possession of every good and to avoid every evil. We believe he really is.
- We should not correct our brother’s ideas or behavior until we have first corrected our own. Once we have done this, we can help others see the light or walk on the right path.
- Our goal should be to be fully trained in Christ so we can be like him and bear good fruit.
- “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good . . . for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Doctrine: Forming conscience and decision-making
- Conscience is one’s reason sitting in judgment on one’s actions. Conscience is reason’s reading of the moral law and judging one’s actions accordingly. Reason does not invent the moral law; rather it discovers it by looking at human nature to learn what is good and evil for a human being. The Christian also receives his or her knowledge of the moral law through the authoritative teachings of the Church contained in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. (see CCC 1776-1782)
- Since we are born knowing nothing the conscience must be properly formed (CCC 1783). This is difficult because even though everyone who has attained the age of reason knows one ought to do good and avoid evil, one also has original sin with one’s inclination to sin. So how is the conscience properly formed?
- We each need to be educated (or better) trained in virtue in order to be free to do what is right once we see what is right. The fundamental human virtues are prudence (sound decision-making), justice (giving what is owed), fortitude (courage and toughness), and temperance (self-control when it comes to pleasure). Growth in virtue is a lifelong task. (CCC 1784)
- We Christians additionally form our conscience according to the Word of God (Christ Himself and what he has revealed).
- This formation requires faith, prayer, and practice.
- It can even require suffering.
- In this task “we are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.” (CCC 1785)
- Conscience is a judgment about the morality of an action you have performed, are performing, or are thinking about performing. How do you know if your choice or judgment is correct? The Church’s moral theology identifies two kinds of judgments:
- o “Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them” (CCC 1786).
- In some situations, it can be difficult to know what the right thing to do is, but one “must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God expressed in divine law” (1787).“Some rules apply in every case:
- o “[o]ne may never do evil so that good may result from it;
- “the Golden Rule: ‘Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them’ [; and]
- “charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience: ‘Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience . . . you sin against Christ.’ Therefore ‘it is right not to . . . do anything that makes your brother stumble.’” (1789)
- What does the Magisterium have to say about erroneous judgments of conscience?
- If you are certain that a particular action is correct, you must obey this judgment of conscience. This is despite that fact that one can be ignorant and make an objectively wrong judgment (CCC 1790).
- If a person makes an erroneous judgment but the person ought to know better, then the person is at fault. “This is the case when a man ‘takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.’” (CCC 1791)
- The Catechism lists additional sources of erroneous judgments “in moral conduct”: “Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity.” (1792)
- If the person’s ignorance is “invincible” or for some other reason the person “is not responsible for his erroneous judgment” then “the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him.” However, while the person is not guilty of sin, the act “remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder.” That is to say, harm is still done to others and to oneself. “One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.” (1793)
Practical application: Form and obey your conscience
- In every aspect of our lives, we need to know more truth and then to integrate that sound knowledge into our correct understanding and upright behavior.
- Thus, is necessary to grasp what conscience actually is and which standards our reason should use to judge.
- Conscience is not some mysterious power: it is the ability of our reason to “read” the moral law. Using our reason, we do not invent the moral law. Rather, we discover it, learn it, and then judge our behavior based on it.
- Those standards against which we judge our behavior (and the behavior of everyone else) are the natural law (for example, do not commit murder), the natural law as perfected by Divine Revelation (for example, do not even deliberately nurse anger in your thoughts), and Divine Positive Law (for example, love your enemy).
- A great resource for educating ourselves (that is, for knowing the moral law) is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, especially part three: “Life in Christ,” which includes the Ten Commandments.
- To form and to follow our conscience, one indispensable condition is to accept our creatureliness. This is to say, we do well to surrender to the truth that we are made by God, and made in a certain way (with a human nature), and that we ought to behave accordingly.
- This is not blind obedience or fearful slavery but trust that God is good, that our human nature deep down is basically good, and that what Christ teaches us through the Catholic faith really is best for us.
- The Catholic faith also teaches us that we carry within us the consequences of original sin, so it can be hard for us to know the truth, our wills are weakened, and we have an inclination or attraction to sin. Acceptance of our creatureliness and humility when it comes to our own powers will help us avoid recklessness in deciding what is right and wrong.
- “The more a correct conscience prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by objective standards of moral conduct” (CCC 1794).
- The Catholic faith, if we adhere to it, will help us have “a good and pure conscience.” To live charity, the most perfect form of moral goodness, we must have “a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith.” (CCC 1794)
The Homiletic Directory offers the following Catechism points and themes for Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
- CCC 2563: the heart is the home of truth
- CCC 1755-1756: good acts and evil acts
- CCC 1783-1794: forming conscience and decision-making
- CCC 2690: spiritual direction
- CCC 1009-1013: Christian view of death
This analysis has left out CCC 1788 due to how easy it would be for the reader to misinterpret it.