As a Jesuit scholastic studying philosophy, one of the questions that constantly plagues me is “What is goodness?” Some of the ancient Greeks thought pleasure was the ultimate good. Other Greeks thought that tranquility and freedom from anxiety was goodness. In the modern period, Kant thought that goodness resides in our ability to rationally think about our actions. The problem with these conceptions, however, is that they all self-centered.

St. Ignatius teaches us in the First Principle and Foundation that we are created to “praise, reverence, and serve God.” Our Christian faith teaches us that our purpose as human beings is not self-centered. Rather, goodness is other-centered. Sirach says the same thing in our first reading. Goodness is ultimately what we do for the Lord. What am I doing for the Lord today?

—James Antonio, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the Oregon Province, is currently studying philosophy at St. Louis University. He lives at the Bellarmine House of Studies in St. Louis.