The Twenty-fifth Sunday of the Year (C)
Dear brothers and sisters,
It will not now be long before we find ourselves once again in the voting booths to elect those who will represent us in shaping and determining the future of our nation and, to some extent, of the world.
Each of us who may enter a polling station has a solemn duty to use our vote wisely and well, looking to the common good and the dignity of all human life. Indeed, Holy Mother Church reminds us that “political rights are meant to be exercised for the common good of the nation and the human community (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2237).”
We hear this phrase, “the common good,” used frequently and from many quarters, but we too often do not give serious consideration to what it really means. Put simply, the common good concerns “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily (Ibid., 1906).”
The true common good is comprised of three necessary and essential elements: first, a respect for the person; second, the social well-being and development of society; and, third, peace, by which is meant stability and security (cf. Ibid., 1909). If one of these is not present, the common good will not be fostered.
The political authority has the grave obligation to promote and safeguard the authentic common good. It is no small task and one in which you and I play an important role; it is an obligation and duty incumbent upon us by virtue both of our human dignity and our status as members of the Body of Christ (cf. Ibid., 1913).
Our participation in promoting the common good begins first of all in those spheres of our daily lives: “by the care taken for the education of the family, by conscientious work, and so forth (Ibid., 1914).” Our promotion of the common good continues in our active participation in the political sphere.
Our political participation beings with prayer. Saint Paul instructs us thus: “First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity” (I Timothy 2:1-2).
Indeed, we must pray daily for those who serve in public office, that through an ongoing conversion of their hearts and minds the true common good will be served above personal interests and pet projects. It is only when the common good is met and served that we can lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.
At the same time, we must pray, too, for an ongoing conversion in our own minds and hearts that we, also, will always look to the common good over our own selfish desires. Too many will enter the voting booth thinking only of themselves and of their money and to these the words of the Lord Jesus ring true: “You cannot serve both God and mammon” (Luke 16:13).
There are too many today who claim to be good Catholics who look to their monetary gain more than they do the rights and dignity of the unborn or of the elderly. They enter the voting booth thinking mainly of their pockets. They are those who say, “We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell” (Amos 8:6). These are not unlike those condemned by the prophet Amos through whom the Lord has sworn, “Never will I forget a thing they have done” (Amos 8:7)!
Any position or view – whether economic, political or otherwise – “that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable. The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects. It is one of the causes of many conflicts which disturb the social order (Ibid., 2424).” Over the past few years we have seen this fact displayed in terms all too clear.
The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI is currently in the United Kingdom for the beatification of John Henry Newman. Thursday he addressed the Scottish people in the following words which touch upon political participation. He said,
I encourage the Catholic professionals, politicians and teachers of Scotland never to lose sight of their calling to use their talents and experience in the service of the faith, engaging contemporary Scottish culture at every level.His words are well-suited for us, as well; let each of us heed them by letting our faith in Jesus Christ shape every aspect of our lives; let us keep nothing from him.
The evangelization of culture is all the more important in our times, when a “dictatorship of relativism” threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man’s nature, his destiny and his ultimate good. There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty. Yet religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or sister. For this reason I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful, in accordance with your baptismal calling and mission, not only to be examples of faith in public, but also to put the case for the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum. Society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility. Do not be afraid to take up this service to your brothers and sisters, and to the future of your beloved nation (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 16 September 2010).
Faith cannot be separated from our public lives. Faith in Christ Jesus is not simply a private affair, but a way of life following after the Crucified and Risen Lord wherever he leads. Faith in the One who first loved us requires a total and complete dedication to him. As he himself has said, “No servant can serve two masters” (Luke 16:). There is only one whom we are to serve and he calls us to a service of love that imitates his own.
Concluding his remarks Thursday, the Holy Father offered this simple and profound reminder:
There is only one thing which lasts: the love of Jesus Christ personally for each one of you. Search for him, know him and love him, and he will set you free from slavery to the glittering but superficial existence frequently proposed by today’s society. Put aside what is worthless and learn of your own dignity as children of God (Ibid.).In this way, we can cooperate with the grace of God to bring about a society devoted to the common good where all people of good will can lead a quiet and tranquil life.
As we in the United States of America observe today this Catechetical Sunday, it is a reminder to all those who seek to hand on the faith of Jesus Christ to others, whether parents, teachers, catechists, or others, that we seek to follow one Lord faithfully. You share in the ministry of the Church; be certain that by your words and example the faith of Jesus Christ shines brightly before your children and those entrusted to your teaching. Let the witness of your lives show others the way to use their talents and experience in the service of the faith and in the service of society.
Today the Church wishes to bestow upon you a special blessing to strengthen you with the Lord’s grace in your efforts plant and water the seeds of the faith planted in the souls of others.