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June 10: The Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]

First Reading Genesis 3:9-15
Second Reading 2 Corinthians 4:13—5:1
Gospel Mark 3:20-35

“For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus explains today that each of us needs to carry out the will of God in order to be His brother or sister. But how can someone learn what that will of God is? Granted that your average Christian does want to carry out God’s will, how can he learn what this will is? Consider three possibilities that the average Christian might weigh.

First, the Christian might follow the simple instruction: “Do good and avoid evil.” Such counsel is straightforward, but there are two potholes to be avoided. On the one hand, how does one know what’s good in a complex moral situation? The Ten Commandments are good guides, as are the teachings in the third quarter of the Catechism, but we don’t always know how to apply these to difficult situations.

On the other hand, the simple instruction of “Do good and avoid evil” can devolve into the whole of one’s approach to morality. In a word, we might describe this pothole as “minimalism”. Often, a moral minimalist considers that he’s doing God’s will as long as he avoids evil. After all, if something’s not evil, it must be good, the minimalist reasons. Morality in this case is nothing more than avoiding whatever God shakes His finger at.

A second way of learning God’s will considers the wealth of truly good choices that the Christian has before him. The key to this way of learning God’s will is the cardinal virtue of prudence. In this case, there’s not a simple choice between good and evil. That’s presumed. But once all evil choices are rejected, the Christian still has many morally good options remaining. Amidst these many good choices, the Christian wants to exercise the virtue of prudence. Prudence helps the Christian advance in his moral life, and by that means, also in his spiritual life. Morality in this case moves us from choosing any old good action to choosing what is best, for as the best possible good, it shares most in the perfection of God’s goodness, and thereby draws us closest to God.

The third way of learning God’s will is the most demanding. This way could be summed up by the word “discernment”. In the process of discernment, the Christian listens for and to the Lord’s voice because there is more one needs to know.

Perhaps the Christian is uncertain which of several good choices is the best. Perhaps he is uncertain if he has all the underlying facts upon which to base a determination of the best choice. Perhaps he’s wondering if there are further good options not yet visible to him. Amidst all the different reasons for discernment, the virtue of obedience is key: obedience to the voice of Jesus, and to the word He speaks. Morality in this case is founded upon a relationship with the living God, who sacrificed His own Son so that we might become, through Jesus’ self-sacrifice, His brothers and sisters.