Gaudium et Spes 17

GS 17 comments on the quest for goodness:

Only in freedom can (people direct themselves) toward goodness.

… and notes how freedom is easily corrupted:

Our contemporaries make much of this freedom and pursue it eagerly; and rightly to be sure. Often however they foster it perversely as a license for doing whatever pleases them, even if it is evil. 

So freedom is defined within a condition:

For its part, authentic freedom is an exceptional sign of the divine image within (the person).

… and God hopes that the human longing for goodness and for the Divine will come to a fulfillment:

For God has willed that (people) remain “under the control of (their) own decisions,”(Cf. Sir. 15:14) so that (they) can seek (their) Creator spontaneously, and come freely to utter and blissful perfection through loyalty to Him.

That quote from Sirach is but part of a significant wisdom passage on free will, Sirach 15:11-20. It alludes to Moses’ challenge before the people Israel toward the end of the Torah (Deut 30:15-20). Whether the choice is life or death (Deut. 30:15) or fire and water (Sir. 15:16) the choices are laid upon us mortals, and the wisdom figure chides those who would say, “This misfortune is God’s will.” (Cf. Sir. 15:11)

Hence (human) dignity demands that (people) act according to a knowing and free choice that is personally motivated and prompted from within, not under blind internal impulse nor by mere external pressure. (People achieve) such dignity when, emancipating (themselves) from all captivity to passion, (they pursue their) goal in a spontaneous choice of what is good, and (procure for themselves) through effective and skilful action, apt helps to that end.

The choice of the word “spontaneous” is interesting, don’t you think? On one level it implies a free person–a truly free person–is so imbued with the longing for goodness that right choices come easily, spontaneously, if you will.

Since (human) freedom has been damaged by sin, only by the aid of God’s grace can (they) bring such a relationship with God into full flower. Before the judgement seat of God each (person) must render an account of his (or her) own life, whether he (or she) has done good or evil.(Cf. 2 Cor. 5:10)

Whether a matter of spontaneity or struggle, individually we are called to account for our actions.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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