Muddled Thinking and Muddled Morals

In the last forty-eight hours we have been treated to some very diverse interpretations of what constitutes the common good. In the Netherlands, for example, it is now legal for doctors to sedate patients with dementia before administering euthanasia (so they do not resist). At the same time, Angela Merkel, long the guardian of the European conscience, has urged that COVID-19 vaccines should be available to poor countries as well as rich ones — on grounds of fairness (and possibly, self-interest). Matt Hancock has helpfully informed us that ‘Christmas is a special time of year’ while not, apparently, going as far as one scientific adviser who thinks Christmas should be ‘postponed’ for six months because the new programme of restraints the government has devised for us does not go far enough to protect public health. Religious illiteracy is clearly even more widespread than we thought. Public sector pay is to be held at current levels but the increases for M.P.s are, at the time of writing, still to go ahead. As to what is happening in Hong Kong or the U.S.A., I dare not comment for fear that I should have to go into hiding from all sides. Meanwhile the barque of Peter sails serenely on, according to its own timetable (the liturgical calendar) and its own preoccupations, which are rarely those of politicians or secular society.

In his homily for the solemnity of Christ the King, Pope Francis admonished us not to give up on great dreams. It is easy to be dismissive of the pope. The subjects on which he chooses to speak or write, the language he uses, and the sometimes interminable length of the addresses themselves, can be difficult for English-speakers. But the great dreams to which he alludes are not to be summarily dismissed. We can get bogged down in the minutiae of daily life and mistake the seemingly urgent for the genuinely important, limiting both ourselves and others unnecessarily. The headlines dominating our news or engaging our social media streams are sometimes petty and leave us making bad or selfish choices. Our thinking can become muddled, and when that happens, so, frequently, does our conduct.

Advent is still a few days away but it provides an excellent opportunity to simplify, reassess what truly matters and act accordingly. That is why I always think these days between Christ the King and the first Sunday of Advent are a precious time of preparation. We may be choosing an Advent book to provide a fresh perspective on what we are celebrating or drawing up a routine which will ensure we read the Mass readings every day and make time for prayer. Here in the monastery we like to begin with three days of almost perfect silence. Apart from the Divine Office and necessary conversation with the butcher, the baker and the candle-stick maker, so to say, we try to keep quiet and allow the silence to lead us. That isn’t possible for everyone, nor would it be advisable in all cases. We have to use common sense as well as spiritual sense in our decision-making. Whatever we decide to do, I have a hunch that if we use this time imaginatively and ask the guidance of the Holy Spirit we shall discover that the common good and our own personal good are more closely aligned than we may have thought. But it may take some hard thinking and hard praying to work that out.

Audio version

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

8 thoughts on “Muddled Thinking and Muddled Morals”

  1. Thank you as always for your wise and thought provoking observations. The “News” often makes me want to weep, whether from despair or laughter it’s sometimes hard to discern.
    I also wanted to say (I’m sure you know this); just because there are few comments it doesn’t mean we haven’t read or absorbed your posts! Sometimes to reply seems easy and possibly glib, so to be resisted. And other times the reply might be too difficult to frame, but the thoughts and prayers the process occasions are invaluable to me, so, thank you again.

    Reply
  2. I have been wondering how to make advent, erm, adventy, without the usual build up in church, carols, special services and suchlike. As a lousy musician (but one who can, at least, sing and play carols at short notice) I usually get roped into being a relunctant extra instrumentalist at this time of year. Secretly I enjoy it!

    Following more liturgy, and choosing advent books are ideas. Perhaps I’ll spend another December driving my husband dotty with my efforts to play carols on our piano. (On that particular instrument, I’m a self-taught novice, so my efforts are appreciated only by me!) Maybe I’ll buy an advent candle and burn down the days, since I wont see any lit in church.

    Curious to know what other people might be thinking to do in lockdown? I’ve not been missing church much – yet when it comes to Christmas – well, I guess I shouldn’t even have to say that it isnt the same without church!

    Reply
  3. I had never thought of the time between Christ the King and Advent as a period of preparation. Silence is difficult to achieve in our home, but looking for a few moments each day will provide a focus. Thank you so much.

    Reply
  4. Preparation is everything. That is something I have learned more deeply during the last nine months. I always new it was important but suddenly it is so obviously an essential especially for dealing with the unexpected!

    Thank you for sharing your thinking and your wisdom.

    Blessings and love to you

    Reply

Leave a comment

 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.