For the Common Good

By Joyce Sohl, Laywoman-in-Residence

Pope Francis’ messages to the American people, often referred to the “common good.” In his message to Congress he said: “You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always best based on care for the people.” In his encyclical on climate change he writes: “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.”

His comments reminded me of the 1993 “Call to the Common Ground for the Common Good” issued by the National Council of Churches of Christ, the Synagogue Council of America and the United States Catholic Conference. The focus of that document was asking all to take hold once again of the old concept of working for the common good in our nation and communities. The common good “is an imperative to put the welfare of the whole ahead of our own narrow interest…an imperative for a national embrace of responsibility and sacrifice, of compassion and caring, as building blocks for meaningful lives and for a healthy society.”

The Pope quoted the Golden Rule as a biblical basis for the common good: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He said this rule “points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.”

Another powerful scripture reference is in Matthew 25:31-46 where the nations are called to accountability for feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and caring for the sick and the imprisoned. A collective action is required and on that all will be judged.

As we listen to the political rhetoric that fills the airways these days are we asking the questions: “Is this idea for the good of all citizens or just a few?” “Is the intent to strengthen the status quo or to lead us forward with justice, love and peace?” Compassion is needed as we deal with difficult and complex issues. Let each of us exercise our responsibility as citizens to work for the common good for all God’s children.

 Joyce D. Sohl, Laywoman-in-Residence

Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, quarterly retreats and art exhibits.