The Prudent Man Directs His Action Towards What is Good

viva christo rey

“The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1:5) The word that I am translating here as “overcome” in Greek is καταλαμβανω, which is sometimes translated as understand. It has many ways it can be translated but the one that seems to fit better is “could not be bound” or “could not be held down” like a fighter in the ring. When we think about it, that is what Satan tried to do to Christ from the very beginning with the temptations in the desert (See Mt 4). But what can the darkness ever do against the light? Nothing but flee. Darkness is simply the absence of light, just as sin is the absence of some good.

Christ came to shatter the darkness, not to be constrained by it. And even in His darkest hour on the cross when all seems lost, Christ is still in control, he still has not been held down, He still fights.

This is a lesson for all of us, I think. The more we seek the light and shun the darkness the stronger we are in overcoming the various sins and setbacks that plague our life. When we say the prayer to the Holy Spirit, which is normally said before study or a retreat we say, “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.” We are asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds. Our bodies and intellects are made for virtue. When we live more virtuously, more in line with our purpose, we are healthier, happier, and even more intelligent.  Part of the reason St Thomas Aquinas was so intelligent was his purity, his soul was clean and able to receive more from God because of it.

Last of all let’s take a look at the 9th chapter of John’s gospel to learn a bit more about light. This story, along with the woman at the well, jumps out at me because it seems to be told simply “as is.” It doesn’t have the air of a complicated story and it seems to flow from beginning to end. Sometimes, these two stories can pass our notice because they seem so simple, but that would be a big mistake because there is a lot of strong theology beautifully woven into the fabric of the story.

Jesus starts off by saying, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” It is almost as if Jesus is compelled to help the blind man escape his darkness once he comes into Christ’s presence. Christ does not want any of us to live in darkness. Can you imagine living your whole life without being able to see? To never know what a color is?

Although not being able to see would be extremely difficult Christ tells us that being blind in sin is even worse, often because we don’t recognize it, just like the pharisees. “If you were blind you would have no sin, but because you say, ‘We see!’ your sin remains.” Christ wants to overcome the darkness of our sin and help us walk in the light, just like he helped the man born blind.

In talking about prudence, especially in this week’s lesson, the key word is “walk.”  Prudence is not knowing what is good, but in directing all that we are toward whatever we know to be good.  People often use the word “prudence” to describe inaction – or caution – but it really refers to action, to doing something.  The prudent man directs his actions toward the good, not just his mind.

From the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas:

Negligence is directly opposed to solicitude [and] … prudence… Negligence regards the act of command, which solicitude also regards. Yet the negligent man fails in regard to this act otherwise than the inconstant man: for the inconstant man fails in commanding, being hindered as it were, by something, whereas the negligent man fails through lack of a prompt will.

Catechism 1806: Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; “the prudent man looks where he is going.” “Keep sane and sober for your prayers.” Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

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