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Chapter 26: Modes of Christian Response


Morally good actions always conform to a will toward integral human fulfillment (7‑F). This first principle of morality is implemented by the modes of responsibility articulated in chapter eight; these exclude ways of willing which fall short of this ideal. Integral human fulfillment is more than an ideal, for it will be realized in the fulfillment of all things in Jesus (19‑B). Thus, in the light of faith, the first principle of Christian morality emerges: To will those and only those possibilities which contribute to the integral human fulfillment being realized in the fulfillment of all things in Jesus.

In the fallen world one can live a life fully in accord with this Christian standard only by cooperating with Jesus in his redemptive work. To make one’s choices fit into such a life, the modes of responsibility must be transformed in the light of faith into modes of Christian response to God’s gifts. The impetus of charity makes the modes of Christian response more than requirements for morally good action; in the Christian, living by the Spirit, they are true dynamic tendencies to respond to God’s gifts with a life like that of Jesus.

We have seen why the transformation of the modes of responsibility will be found exemplified in Jesus’ life and explained in his teaching (25‑F). The present chapter proposes to show how this is so by identifying and clarifying these modes of Christian response, which correspond to the eight Beatitudes.

The modes of Christian response are general determinations of the first principle of morality, which draws Christians to fulfillment in Jesus. These modes include Christian virtues, at least in incipient form. They correspond to the Beatitudes which proclaim the intrinsic relationship between Christian life in this world and heavenly fulfillment. The gifts of the Holy Spirit indicate these modes insofar as they are divinely given powers to live as a child of God. Like Jesus, the poor in spirit are humble, the meek are obedient and resigned, the sorrowing are detached, those who hunger and thirst are faithful, and the merciful are compassionate. The pure in heart grow toward likeness to Jesus in perfect devotion. The peacemakers are like him in reconciliation. Those persecuted for righteousness’ sake sacrifice themselves as he does.