By Father Casey

It is not always clear what we are supposed to do.

The last seven weeks I participated in one of our Sunday-morning adult formation classes, which delved into some of the complex moral problems facing our society. We discussed how modern science and technology are presenting us with exciting innovations that also carry ethical dilemmas. We will soon be able to select the genes in our babies, but should we? We are lengthening life expectancy, but what is the quality of these longer lives? We are rapidly developing artificial intelligence, but have we thought through all the impacts of this technology?

Each class was both exciting and worrisome. We did not “solve” anything, and it felt at times like all we did was learn about how much more complicated the world is than we’d previously understood. No, it is not always immediately clear what we are supposed to do, as individuals or as a society, in response to some of our biggest challenges.

But lest we throw up our hands at complex moral problems, and decide that there is no solid ground on which to stand and make decisions, we should remember the Summary of the Law, which we’ll hear again this weekend. What is the greatest commandment, Jesus was asked, to which he responded:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

The two greatest commandments may not lead us in a straight line to answers for all the complicated questions we face as modern people, but they are definitely where we should always start. As Christians, everything we do should hang – that is, derive from, depend upon – on our love of God and neighbor. No matter how complicated the problem, we can always ask ourselves questions like: where is God in this? Am I taking into consideration all the people who will be affected, or am I only thinking of myself? What is the outcome of my choices, and which set of outcomes looks more like love?

There are plenty of people who make decisions devoid of any consideration of either God or neighbor. They may even claim to be following God, but they are purely utilitarian, wanting the best outcome for themselves and those on their side.

We are called to show the world something different. We can hold at our center the two great commandments. We can face the complicated dilemmas of our day through the prism of love. It won’t always make our decisions easy, and it may not even mean we’re always right. But when love is our guide, it is hard to go wrong.

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