Summary: Of all the sins listed in our Gospel today, the telos in that list is extremely off-course from God.
People put their entire moral analysis on intention only; e.g. If my intention is good, I can do it.
But actually, “telos” is the word in the Bible that orients ourselves toward God. Telos means “purpose, intent, goal.” E.g. Bulimia is acting against the telos of eating.
A couple good questions for us are “Do we have a telos sufficient, personally and publicly, to orient our belief and behavior to God?”
We can ask ourselves, What do my actions “tell me” or “tell-us”? And we usually get good clarity.
e.g. Unlike the time I went to a restaurant and asked the waiter, “Can you tell me what the WIFI password is?
He said: You need to buy a drink first.
I said: Okay, I’ll have a diet coke.
He said: Is diet Pepsi okay?
Me: Sure. How much is that?
The waiter said: $ 3.50
Me: “There you go, keep the change. So, what’s the WIFI password?”
The waiter said: “You need to buy a drink first. No spaces, all lowercase.”
Of all the sins listed in our Gospel today, the telos in that list is extremely off-course from God and the Catechism’s definition of sin is that it’s an offense or desire against reason, truth, and right conscience, contrary to God and neighbor.
1). One way of orienting ourselves to God’s ultimate purpose is just to do the “next right thing.” Not to be concerned with the uncontrollable, unknown future but to focus on the immediate information at hand. We only have to do the next right thing and we are then in line with God’s grand purpose for his world. He is going to restore everything to how he intends it to be. He is in the midst of reconciling it all back to himself in Christ. There is redemption going on, and it will one day all things will be made right.
2). Honesty in confessing sin is another way to restore our telos and purpose in life.
The interior judgment of conscience. The Catechism says that that is a proof of the action of the Spirit of truth in man's inmost being where we discover a double gift: the gift of the truth of conscience and the gift of the certainty of redemption. The Spirit of truth is the Consoler.
A classic example of how honesty corrects our path comes from chapter 5 – How it Works from the "Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous" which has a very well-known phrase that begins with:
“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are CONSTITUTIONALLY INCAPABLE OF BEING HONEST WITH THEMSELVES.”
e.g A woman named Chris C., from Utah, said, “Ten years ago, during my husband’s drinking days, I lost my engagement ring.” I had just washed my hands and fumbled putting my rings back on. The engagement ring bounced once on the counter and then into the flushing toilet. I should have told my husband, but he was so angry when he was drinking that I kept it myself. I went out and bought a new ring, which was similar to, but not the same as mine. My husband never noticed the difference, so I thought I was home free.
However, last week, we were remodeling the bathroom. He had removed the toilet and was talking it out to the garage when we both heard something clinking as he walked. Horrors! Once outside, he broke up the toilet, and, sure enough, my ring bounced out, minus the diamond. Before, I would have made up all sorts of bizarre stories of how the ring got there. But, now, with the help of God, I took a deep breath and said, “Hon, sit down. I need to make amends.” We were able to talk about it without all the baggage of the past and he was not a bit upset. In fact, it seems funny now. I’m grateful to God for my desire to be honest and to face life on life’s terms.
In summary, God’s providence consists of leading things to their ends, including human beings (St. Thomas Aquinas ST 1:22:1). But he wills to do so through intermediaries, or second causes. For humans, this involves choosing good over evil as they constitute our good moral character, which belongs to our perfection and sanctification. God has bestowed on us the faculty to cause good in things including ourselves. So let’s cause good for ourselves by acting toward the path that leads to eternal joy for our good and the eternal good of others.