The Freedom for Excellence

Honor the Lord with thy substance, and give him of the first of all thy fruits: And thy barns shall be filled with abundance, and thy presses shall run over with wine.

Proverbs 3:9

One of the terms bandied about in Moral Theology these days, or at least last decade – things change every few years or so in our constant immutable teachings – is the “freedom for excellence”. A reason it’s bandied about is that St. Thomas Aquinas thought often of it and wrote about it. And a reason St. Thomas Aquinas thought often of it and wrote about it is because it’s to be found in Sacred Scripture.

And a reason it may not be bandied about this decade is that many priests in the current vogue simply can’t stand St. Thomas Aquinas. Don’t ask me to explain, because I can’t in the timeframe we’re talking about here.

Essentially, and to oversimplify things, we’re given free will by our creator. We can ultimately do whatever we want to do. The freedom for excellence means that we can use our free will to choose actions which lead to happiness, and those actions and that happiness is revealed by the Lord. As we read also in Proverbs chapter 3: “Forget not then, my son, the teaching I give thee; lock these words of mine close in thy bosom;2 long years they shall bring thee of life well spent, and therewith prosperity.

“Honor the Lord with thy substance”. If¬†anything¬†calls us towards excellence in the physical world surely this biblical phrase from the wisdom literature does. And our faith is very much about not just the spiritual, emotional, intellectual aspects of life. We are incarnational beings and the physical is very important; the body, our surroundings, our homes, our clothes, our autos, our foods – all of the substance which the Lord provides should be managed in ways which honor the Lord.

Honoring the Lord with all our substance invites us to clean up, to clean out, to polish, to shine; to exercise regularly, keep our affairs in order. All of the substance of the physical world which is poured out for our good and over which we have dominion needs to be managed beautifully for the glory and honor of God.

A decade ago when I was visiting France one of the first things I noticed, while boarding the plane, is that the French dress well, and see importance in their physical well being and in their surroundings. Gentlemen in suits, young women in heels; decoratively disposing of waste from the meals – I’m chalking it up to the fact that France is the eldest daughter of the Church and at its heart has a very Catholic culture. But there’s excellence in well being which is very evident. (It’s also evident in many areas in Europe and in the world. Many peoples habitually and culturally keep their surroundings immaculate, most notable Judeo Christian cultures.)

In the USA we have a very different concept of our physical surroundings and have become inherently lazy as a people. With the advances of secularism and the advances of progressive ideologies that advise us to have others do for us what we could be doing for ourselves; the advent of free stuff and “all the things” readily at our disposal, we’re less wont to spend time cleaning, polishing, trimming, organizing. We dress in old jeans, sneakers, and t-shirts for all occasions except weddings and funerals. Churches on Sunday afternoons offer a sea of trash for someone else to pick up. Litter all over abounds via the slothful or ignorant

It’s a cultural change, and reflects the fact that our culture is less informed by Jesus Christ than it is by personal whim, and an individuality that prizes itself on conformity. Culture is formed by cult – which means that culture is formed by what we worship, either the gods we hold on high or The God who is on high.

Thoughts for the day; cultural change towards the worship and lived expectations of a life given over to the worship, praise and adoration of, and in service to, the one true God.

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