St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that good signifies “perfect being” and evil signifies “the privation of perfect being”1, so when a thing lacks a perfection it ought to have, we perceive the deficiency as an evil. When something is just how it ought to be we call this “good”.
The dog is happy living in the present moment, just being with “the pack”, even if the pack consists of only the dog and his master. This is “perfection” for the mind of a dog. The human is besieged with worldly thoughts; he is not content just being in the present moment. Being a child of God made in the image and likeness of God does not satisfy, even if this “Good News” is made clear to him as a Christian. The intellect dimmed by original and personal sin is obsessed with earthly thoughts and is easily distracted from the source of true happiness. This is an evil or a “privation of perfection” for the human mind.
We could speak of our lives in terms of two aspects, secular and spiritual. Our secular side refers to all the practical and worldly things we deal with and learn about to help us function in our communities, homes, and jobs. We need to pay attention to secular things. The spiritual side is about the Good, the Beautiful and the True and the meaning behind it all. If we get these last things right, the rest of life falls into place. Our spiritual life needs to be foremost in our mind.
Where do your idle thoughts go? What would happen if you put God at the absolute center of your thoughts? What we think ultimately translates to what we do. Since the intellect informs the will, we would end up doing the will of God. We would experience peace, become centered and "detached". Our spinning mind would no longer control us; no longer exhaust us.
In the end only one thing is necessary. It is the “one thing” spoken of at the house of Mary & Martha in Luke 10:38-42. Martha might think that she or Mary could love God above all other things and at the same time be constantly preoccupied with worldly things, but Jesus made it clear that she could not do both perfectly; imperfectly she could, but not perfectly.
It is the nature of the secular life to begin and end in our lifetime. Not so, however, of the spiritual life; it begins in this life, but lasts without end. The best is truly yet to come. As the Lord said to Martha, it is the part that shall never be taken away; because that perfect moment of being which can begin for us here will last without end in heaven.
“God wants us to live in the moment because we can only sanctify the present moment. We can’t change the past or control the future. The chance to do good or bad resides in the right here, right now.”2
- St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas’s Shorter Summa (Manchester: Sophia Institute Press, 2002), p. 125.
- Karee Santos and Manuel Santos, The Four Keys To Everlasting Love (Ave Maria Press, 2016), e-book, p. 15.