For most of us the classical Greek axiom, "moderation in all things," seems a reasonable tenet to live by. It seems all the more reasonable during this election cycle when moderation seems sorely missing. Incredibly, even to be labeled "moderate" places a political candidate at risk. Yet we know in our daily lives, that moderation seems wise counsel when we consider our eating and drinking and working habits.
Our first reading from Proverbs echoes this seemingly obvious virtue when the writer implores God: "Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need; lest, being full, I deny you, saying, who is the Lord? Or, being in want, I steal, and profane the name of my God."
The commission to the apostles in Luke’s Gospel to go forth to proclaim the Good News and cure disease includes Jesus enjoining those who go in His name to take nothing extra for the journey.
The things in our lives really do get in the way. But so do lack of things. How do we proclaim the compassionate love of God to those who either think they have everything they need or who are so consumed with struggling through the day they have no time to consider the abundant love of Jesus? It is not the number of things we have in our lives. It’s the attitude we have about the things in our life. We become so easily distracted by what we have or don’t have that we cannot hear the Word of God as it is proclaimed to us. Nor will we be very good at proclaiming God’s Word when distracted by the excesses or the deficiencies we experience in our lives.
Perfection is not to be found in this life, either in our personal lives or in society. We strive for excellence certainly, but perfection comes only in our union with God. The search for excellence is full of false starts and dead ends, of pendulum swings from one extreme to another, of trying to find a balance in life – that moderation, that temperance – that allows us to be free to hear God’s Word and to live that Word honestly and openly.
We have become a people of extremes in all manner of life. Look at the extremes of wealth and poverty, all while the middle class is reported to be shrinking. Look at the extremes of fundamentalism at both ends in religion and politics that leave moderates sidelined. Perhaps if we focus first on God’s Word, Jesus will help guide us through the traps of extremism to find a moderation that allows us to see God in all things and all people.
- Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and is the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.