A Deeper Virtue
This weekend, our passage from the Gospel of Matthew challenges us to a deeper virtue. Our call to be followers of Christ cannot be satisfied by doing only what the law asks of us. There are things that we are obligated to do – or to avoid – in order to observe the law. But it is not enough not to break the law; we should go beyond that: we should understand God’s intention in giving the law. The law is the beginning of the spiritual life, but not its fulfillment. Jesus came to complete Jewish law, endowing it with a spiritual meaning as well. For example, the precept of the law, “you shall not kill,” implies that one should not be angry with a brother (or a sister); you shall not call him or her a fool or a renegade. Jesus calls us not only to avoid evil, but to do good as well.
When we avoid breaking the commandments, we an assume that we are “not bad,” but the Lord’s call to us is not simply to be “not bad,” but in fact to be great. We can achieve this greatness only by means of virtues. This reality is reflected also in our understanding of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sometimes we do not go to confession because we do not think that we have committed any wrong, and maybe we are correct in that belief. But what about the things we should change and we do not, or the things we are supposed to work on, or the virtues we wish to develop?
We cannot only live a life of “getting by.” We need to excel in what we do, not only in a professional or educational way, but especially in a spiritual way, and we achieve that as we work on our virtues. God invites us not merely to survive, but to thrive.
We need to understand that doing some good thing once or twice or controlling our temper a few times is not a “Virtue.” Virtue can only be achieved over a period of time.
A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions. (CCC # 1803)
Yes, this is the intention of all of the guidance that God gives us. Working patiently to develop in virtue, we will grow into our very best selves.
Take a moment to reflect on your virtues, to identify them, and to work on them. That is your witness of your dedication to yourself and to God.