Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Pope and The Common Good

I just listened to Pope Francis' address to the United States Congress and to all of us who call this country our home.  It was a brilliant speech and very moving.  I was especially struck by his use of
the phrase "the Common Good" over and over again.

I think we need to be clear what are the enemies of the Common Good, particularly in the political arena.  Ideological thinking, I believe, is the greatest of these.  By thinking I mean the adherence to a set of ideas as absolutes which divide the world into those who are for us and those who are against us.  The temptation, of course, is not just a political one, but also a religious one.  The temptation is to raise the convictions of belief and value that I hold to the level of closed revelation, absolutes that must be adhered to in order to be a "good" American or person of faith.

The biblical story is one in which the People of God are constantly challenged by this temptation, assuming that God demands these kinds of choices.  Yet in the end, as Francis I think is saying, there is only mercy, love and blessing.

Over the course of the biblical story, God's desire to bless his people is God's desire for the common good.  The act of blessing is too often thought of as the making special of an individual or group of persons above others.  Yet that is not at all biblical.  The heart of blessing is gratitude and generosity; I cannot bless that for which I am not grateful and toward which I am unwilling to be generous.  To bless is to not only wish the best for another, but to commit one's self to making the best come true.

There is no blessing without the common good.  And the "common" in "common good" is in the realm of the mercy of which Francis so often speaks.  The mercy of God makes the embrace of God and the desire of God for our well-being wider than even our powerful imaginations can fathom.

I this political season I long for these core values to find expression.  In a world beset by religious ideology (which I believe is an oxymoron) I long for the same.  Even though I am not a Roman Catholic I am grateful for the voice of this Pope calling us to these values, unafraid of where those values might take him and the world.

No comments: