Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, priest
(Proverbs 21:1-6.10-13; Luke 8:19-21)
Contemporary philosophy makes a disturbing distinction between doing what is right and doing what is good. It says doing what is right means acting with a principled will. In another words, to do what is right is to always obey the rule of law. Doing what is good, on the other hand, is to act to produce the best possible outcome. Both these ways of acting seem to miss the mark set in the Scripture readings for today.
The first reading includes the proverb, “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” “Right” and “just” are synonymous, parallel words; that is, words set alongside of one another that mean the same thing. Both mean to give everyone his or her due. This is not the same thing as doing what is right in the modern sense of the word since following a particular rule may be acting too rigidly. Nor does it mean acting for the best possible outcome which sometimes entails doing patently something wrong. For example, bribing someone to vote in a particular way to get the better candidate elected. Rather, “to do what is right and just” is to act prudently – to choose the best ethical action that will assure that everyone receives a fair shake.
It is not always easy for us to “do what is right and just.” Indeed, sometimes it will cost us dearly. We do so anyway because in this way we remain close to Jesus. As he says in the gospel, we become his “mother and brothers.”