Homilette for January 31, 2008

Tuesday, Memorial of St. John Bosco, priest

(II Samuel 7:18-19; 24-29)

Michael Sandel is a leading Harvard ethicist. Recently he has published a book with the curious title The Case against Perfection. By “perfection” Mr. Sandel does not mean the human attempt to be virtuous. Rather, he has in mind the idolatrous quest by parents to manipulate their child’s genetic makeup so that he or she would have apparently perfect attributes. That is, Sandel argues against the ever increasing possibility that parents may have their child’s genes bioengineered so that he or she is born with “perfect” intelligence, beauty, emotions, and the like.

Sandel uses the idea of theologian William F. May to make his case. He says that parenting must retain an “openness to the unbidden.” This means that parents must not try to control everything about their offspring. They are wise to leave genetic makeup and, as the children grow older, some aspects of their development in the hands of God or nature. Of course, parents might have a genetic defect corrected and should promote their children’s education. But these efforts should not turn into an arrogant quest to produce the perfect human being.

David in the first reading today demonstrates an “openness to the unbidden.” First, he humbly recognizes that what he has and done are not his work alone but the gifts of God. Then, he expresses his gratitude to God for the bounteous gifts. Finally, he asks God to bless his offspring that they may live up to the promise of greatness that God has made to him. Of course, David’s request is fully realized in the coming of Jesus Christ.