The Common Good can be understood 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.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1924). It has always been a duty of every human person to care for and uphold the dignity of the other. In Genesis 4, when God asks Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” to which Cain responds, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). We are our brothers’ keepers and it is our responsibility to uphold them and will their eternal good. The eternal begins today and being both body and soul – we must care for both. The common good is the principle which recognizes that we must uphold conditions which allow people to grow towards their fulfillment –of both body and soul.
The principle of the common good is foundational. We, as human persons, are created as social beings. We are meant to be in relationship with others. This can be seen in the earliest years of each of our lives as we are in relationships with family and friends. As we grow, we have educational, work and religious relationships. The list goes on and on. We are always in interrelationship and interdependence with others.
The common good has three major elements. The first is a general respect for the human person as such. The second element of the common good is a general desire for the social well-being and development of the group itself. Finally, the common good requires peace. Respecting, protecting, and upholding goodness and growth of people are the ways in which the principle of the common good is carried out.
One day on earth would tell anyone that the principle of the common good is not something to take lightly. It is both an ideal and moral measure. This principle may seem an impossible ideal –safety, medicine, and proper education are not guaranteed throughout most of the world. The ideal of upholding a common good becomes a moral measure. It is an invitation to work towards the perfect in an imperfect world. It is a challenge to accept the journeying state of our lives, the imperfections of the world around us and choose to do the good anyway.
The common good is, “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.” It is a relational reality in which we strive for respect, prosperity, and peace for each human person. It is a principle to live out our identity as our brothers’ keepers daily.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
—St. Francis of Assisi
Act: Choose one way this week to live out one of the three elements of the common good –being, respect for the person, promoting the social well-being and development of the person, and peace.