THE BISHOP'S CROZIER: The Challenge of the Common Good

THE BISHOP'S CROZIER: The Challenge of the Common Good

"You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we find ourselves deep in the season of Lent — a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving — we strive to re-commit our lives to Jesus and to root out any areas that are keeping us from growing in relationship with Him. This annual journey is always an invitation to discern ways we can deepen our love for the Lord and for each other.

In his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, St. Augustine tells us that the Beatitudes are a model of what it means to live a Christian life. The first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” means that we need to be detached from anything that is an obstacle to our relationship with Jesus.  When we have this spirit of detachment, we are free to seek out the good with our whole hearts. We are not hindered by anything that gets in the way of true freedom.

Freedom is perhaps one of the most misunderstood concepts of our time, and it deserves to be discussed in greater detail. Underneath the question of freedom, however, the core question is “What is good?” Jesus gives us the answer to this firstly in himself. He is the good that we seek, and we cannot find it apart from him. When we are in right relationship with the Lord, we also seek to be in right relationship with each other. One of the ways that we live this out is by pursuing the common good together.

What is the common good? And how do we find it?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) tells us that the common good can only be defined in relationship to the human person (CCC, No. 1905). The common good must flow from our core identity as beloved children of the Father. In any discussion on this topic, human dignity must be the primary consideration. Three essential elements of the common good, according to the Catechism, (CCC Nos. 1907-1909) are:

1. Respect for the fundamental rights of each human person

2. Social well-being and development of the group itself

3. Peace

When it comes to social issues, these three elements are important to keep in mind. Both prayer and prudence are vital in discerning the common good in the public sphere.

The common good also means that we are co-responsible for achieving it. We cannot have a good that is only good for me — it also needs to be good for everyone else in society. It is not “my” good or “their” good. It is “our” good. The Church is clear that we have an obligation to seek out the common good together, both as a matter of justice and of charity. Many magisterial documents stress the fact that we cannot find the common good apart from the rights and the dignity of the human person.

Something that has been on my heart lately is the border crisis. How can we seek out the common good in this situation? Let’s start with the human person — the migrants who seek a better life in our country. Many are born in poor nations where they find themselves unable to feed their families. Perhaps they live in places ridden with violence or persecution. The Church teaches that our brothers and sisters in other countries have a right to seek a better life elsewhere, and a responsibility to do so in a way that also respects the country they wish to enter.

We also need to consider the rights and responsibilities of the human persons who are American citizens. How can we preserve the peace, safety, and integrity of our nation while maintaining our responsibility as one of the wealthiest nations to welcome and integrate migrants? How do we give from our abundance to help those in need? What solutions can we find to the situations that are causing people to flee their homeland in the first place?

Both nations and individuals have rights and responsibilities that must mutually serve the common good — a good that the Catechism describes as the “sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily” (CCC, No. 1906).  Please take a moment to read Andy Barton’s Caritas Corner article about the good work Catholic Charities of Central Colorado is doing for the common good of our local community.

The border crisis needs to be addressed, sooner rather than later, in a way that serves the common good. Please pray for fortitude and prudence for our political leaders. Pray for the migrants who seek to find human dignity. Pray for the victims of drug cartels and human trafficking. Consider fasting for this intention. When you give alms this Lent, ask the Lord who are the “least of these” that he wants you to help. Let us work together always to recognize Christ in each human person. As we have conversations about this topic, let’s strive to be charitable and humbly work towards the common good together.

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Bishop James R. GolkaBishop James R. Golka

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