Piety Makes Us Morally Better

Here and in the next several posts, we shall hear the Sulpician Father Jean Guibert discuss the various fruits of piety. In this post, we hear him explain how the practice of piety makes a person morally better.

“Mutual interdependence between religion and morality is definitely consecrated by Christianity. Jesus came to purify and restore the religion of His Father; but He understands it as being a means of moral progress. ‘Be you therefore perfect,’ He says, ‘as also your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 5:48). ‘He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me’ (Jn 14:21). After teaching us, in the Pater noster, to ask God for the pardon of our sins, He immediately adds: ‘For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you forgive not men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences.’ (Mt 6:14-15) He warns us that without goodness piety is barren, when He says: ‘Not every one that saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of My Father who is in heaven’ (Mt 7:21).”

“His disciples preach the same doctrine. See with what severity St. Paul judges those who, in their piety, neglect the duties of their state of life. ‘If any man,’ he says, ‘have not care of his own, and especially of those of his house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel’ (1 Tm 5:8). The Apostle St. James, for his part, insists upon this capital truth: ‘For even as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead’ (Jas 2: 26). ‘Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation: and to keep oneself unspotted from this world’ (Jas 1:27).”

“This, the authentic teaching of religion, gathered by tradition and faithfully handed down to us, makes piety, both for individuals and for society, an instrument of moral progress. It has been given to man as a power from on high, in order that, by means of it, he may become better, and that, by means of goodness, he may be happier in this world and assured of bliss in eternity. Religion and morality, piety and holiness, are then indissolubly united by God. A piety that seeks anything else than an increase in goodness, mistakes its end; a piety that would be its own end would be barren and rejected by God.”

Quotations from Jean Guibert, On Piety (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1911).

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