Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. Mark 10: 18
By: Ashley Blackburn and Susan Skinner
It is not by our own merit that we are “good” or are we even able to do truly good deeds. It is only with God acting through us – since He is the source of all goodness. We can consider what we think to be good, based upon our own limited understanding, but how are we to actually know what is truly good?
More often than not, we form our own individual opinion of what we believe to be good and then we act based upon that opinion. But how are we forming this opinion and what is our intent for doing good deeds? Almost every one of us wants to be a good person and the best way to prove our goodness, to both others and ourselves, is to do good deeds. But in this passage from the Gospel of Mark, we hear Jesus tell his apostles that God alone is the source of all goodness. Therefore we do not actually create or earn goodness, nor are we even good of our own accord. Instead we are to give credit to God alone because He alone is the source of all goodness. Thus, we should be continually drawing from this limitless source and not try to create or determine goodness on our own accord.
So how do we draw from the source of all goodness? Through prayer and through our participation in the Sacramental Life of the Church. The combination of living both of these to the fullest are how we bring God’s authentic goodness to the world. And it is up to us… God’s goodness enters the world through each one of us who are each members of the Body of Christ.
Through prayer, we tap into the source of goodness who is God himself and we allow ourselves to be nourished with the Living Water. Without prayer, our hearts can easily become dried up and even turn into hearts of stone. It is prayer and a personal relationship with Jesus that cultivates in us the Truth of God’s goodness. It creates a place within us where the fount of Living Water, which is a wellspring of never ending nourishment for the soul, may dwell and flourish. Through prayer we allow ourselves access to this fount and are able to draw from this source.
A prayer-filled spirit is one who is continually quenched in the Living Water of God’s Truth and goodness. It is one who truly listens to the Holy Spirit, is open to the response that God is calling them to and is obedient to the Will of God. The Virgin Mary is a great example of this for us. Her FIAT is evidence that she was a prayer-filled person and had a deeply rooted relationship with God the Father.
“He [God] is the Fount of grace, and all her [Mary’s] gifts are from His goodness.” –Meditations for the Month of May, by Blessed John Henry Newman
Mary most fully understood and believed that the source of all goodness is from God. This is what allowed her to trust fully in the Lord and praise and honor Him above all things. Her openness to receiving God’s grace transformed all doubt and fear into loving service of the Father. Although she was not granted immunity to suffering in this world, she was given the tremendous grace to endure all the world’s suffering with peace and perseverance. These are the gifts she received through prayer. These are the graces she tapped into through the prayerful relationship she had with the Father.
A life without prayer can quickly become dry and arid because we cease to draw from the source of all goodness. By not uniting ourselves with God in prayer, we can quickly dry out. This can be likened to pouring water into a dry well. The water is quickly absorbed by the dry land or runs out because there is no source of water coming from within the well. God’s grace is the wellspring that we are all called to draw from through prayer. It is ready and available to all of mankind. But many of us are simply too busy, too prideful, too self sufficient, too hurt, or too distracted in order to drink from the well. So we continue on our way in life doing the best we can and relying on ourselves and others in order to live a good life.
In all actuality, in order to truly be a “good” person, we can do nothing without God. Jesus most assuredly tells us that only God Alone is good. When we try to do good on our own accord, we end up only mimicking what is authentically good. This is because we are only doing what we consider good, which has the tendency to be flawed, distorted and even evil;
“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20
It is only through God’s grace, poured out upon us, accepted and received into our hearts, and then freely given away, are we actually doing true good in the world. Those who participate in a prayerful relationship with God, uniting their soul to their creator and allowing Him to transform their heart, are in essence tapping into this source of goodness and are enabled to go out into the world and be God’s presence to the world. These souls allow the life-giving water to flow freely through them and the good they do is not actually of themselves, but is from God. It is only through great humility that we are able to recognize this and to participate in God’s goodness in this way.
Alongside cultivating a prayer life, is the importance of our regular participation in the Sacraments. The Sacraments are strength for the storm. They empower us with the Pentecostal courage to go out and share the good news. Jesus spent three years building a relationship with the apostles, teaching them and revealing to them his mission for the Church. But even then it took the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to give them the courage to go out and be and do and share the goodness they had received.
The Sacraments are an extension of Pentecost for us today, especially those that we are able to daily participate in; the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation. Jesus gave us this tremendous gift to be able to be strengthened and fed in the Eucharist and then also healed and forgiven in Confession each and every day. In his dying and rising, Jesus made himself available to us in a real way each and every day. What a tremendous treasure we have access to through the Church.
Both prayer and the Sacraments are each important in their own ways. But one without the other is only a partial living of God’s goodness. This is why we see so much degradation in today’s society. People have either abandoned the practice of prayer, or they have abandoned the Sacraments all together, or both. The result, disunity and rage.
When we replace what God gave us with our own version of what we want or what we think is good we get a religionless spirituality or abandonment of the spirituality all together. Pride and selfishness permeate the air because it is a mere mimicry of the real thing, a twisted truth. And a twisted truth is actually a lie. What do you get in these circumstances, people who speak of unity, but who are actually destroying it.
“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The devil wants nothing more than to separate you from God. Separation from God separates you from people. We cry unity in the name of tolerance as we label people and put them in boxes where we can hate them. We get a church that lets go of doctrine and embraces evil. In short, we get what has happened in Ireland (and America). The battle cry uniting women as equal includes the killing of her child. Marriage gets twisted to mean only sexual desire in the name of unity. And if you disagree, well, you aren’t for unity, equality and tolerance, therefore we can hate you. And we reject God’s love and mercy creating our own abyss.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.” Romans 1:21-25
So what are we to do? First, run away from authors and speakers who speak of love and unity but criticize church Doctrine. Go back to the example of Our Blessed Mother and the Saints. Immerse yourself in prayer, mental prayer, which is a conversion with the King of Kings. Go back to the Sacraments, and receive with a humble contrite heart, not a prideful or scrupulous heart. Examine your conscience daily. Love the person right in front of you. Be a light in the darkness. Go back to God alone as the source of goodness and do what he asked us to do, and draw your source of goodness from the Truth.
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2