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One of America’s “Great Preachers” Visits Trinity

By Kathryn Soman

On Tuesday, May 7, at a luncheon in Trinity’s Parish Hall, the Rev. Peter Gomes, one of contemporary America’s most celebrated preachers, reflected on and signed copies of his new book, The Good Life: Truths That Last in Times of Need , an exploration of what it means today to pursue and, sometimes, fail to live a moral life.

Direct from a taping of the "Charlie Rose" television show, Gomes captivated his audience, arguing that the battle to be good must be perpetually fought and that today’s moral warriors must reassess their choice of weaponry. In other words, we need to reexamine what we mean by the terms “moral” or “good” life, he said.

“Don’t count your successes,” said Gomes. “Count your failures – for they are the teachable moments in life.”

Championing failure seemed an incongruous choice for Gomes, who is the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard and Pusey Minister at that University’s Memorial Church. A highly acclaimed author and scholar, he is also, according to TIME magazine, “one of the seven greatest preachers in America.”

The best-selling author said that his latest work was born of a desire to address what he calls “moral illiteracy.”

“‘Can I afford to be good?’ – I hear that from my Harvard students all the time. How can our urbane, sophisticated, in many ways indulged society identify and achieve the good life?” Gomes asked. “The goal is to become good at being good.”

Western Christian tradition offers answers, he believes, and provides clear paths for individual journeys toward the good life. Yet throughout the centuries, we have often found it difficult or, perhaps, convenient to lead an easier, more comfortable life rather than risk following Jesus and subordinating our own lives to the good.

“How do we take it on?” Gomes asked of the pursuit of a moral life.

“I don’t have any quick spiritual diet,” he said, joking, “I can’t promise thin theological thighs in thirty days.”

Rather, he suggested his audience re-examine those early Christian virtues in order to restore these “truths that last.”

“If you want to live the good life,” Gomes concluded, “you’ll have to fight for it. You’ll have to struggle for it and sometimes you’ll lose. But with God’s good grace, you’ll reach it in good time.”

Posted on Trinity News May 10, 2002

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