Thursday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
(Tobit, 6:10-11.7:1bcde.9-17.8:4-9a; Mark 12:28-34)
In a classic philosophical debate Plato holds that knowledge of the good results in a desire to do it. Aristotle disagrees claiming that weakness of the will can short-circuit the desire. Most people given the choice between, say, chocolate fudge and an apple for dessert would agree with Aristotle. What would Jesus say?
In the gospel today Jesus makes a telling comment to the scribe who congratulates him on his choice of the greatest commandments. He says, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” One may interpret this statement as meaning that the scribe is not in the Kingdom because he does not profess faith in Jesus. But it is more likely that Jesus too recognizes the difference between knowing something as good and actually doing it. The scribe is not yet in the Kingdom because he only acknowledges the need to love God and neighbor. He still must humble himself to care for the other.
Knowledge gets us started on the “good life.” It pinpoints what we should do, provides viable options, and assesses the risks of each alternative. But actually doing what is right – true morality – also requires will-power – the virtues of temperance, fortitude, and prudence. For example, young adults know the need for pre-marital abstinence from sexual intimacy to live chastely. But sitting alone with their partners on Saturday night, they require the virtues of the will to overcome being swamped by lustful desire.