I have always understood the Golden Rule (do unto others…) as a true commitment to our faith and to the Common Good. The Common Good is an ancient idea which is needed at this time more than ever before—or at least, that’s how it feels to me. Our life together can be better. Ours is a selfish, self-serving age; we are so in need of conversion—from looking out just for ourselves to looking out for one another. It’s time to hear and heed a call to a different way of life, and Jesus issued that call and announced the Kingdom of God: a new order of living in sharp contrast to all the political, social and religious kingdoms of the world. That better way of life was meant to benefit not only His followers but everybody else too.
Christianity is not a religion that gives some people a ticket to heaven and allows them to be judgmental of all others. WE hear that from Jesus, Himself, today. Rather, it’s a call to a relationship that changes every one of our relationships. Jesus told us a new relationship with God brings us into a new relationship with our neighbors, especially with the most vulnerable of this world, and even with our enemies. This call to love our neighbor is the foundation for reestablishing and reclaiming the common good which has fallen into cultural and political—and even, sometimes, religious—neglect.
Virtually all the world’s major religions say that you cannot separate your love for God from your love for your neighbor. Even the nonreligious will affirm the idea of the Golden Rule. Some form of the Golden Rule has been around for thousands of years, but we seem to have lost a sense of its importance and its transformative power. Now is the time to reclaim the neglected common good and to learn how faith might help in that important task. Our public life could be made better, transformed, healed and enriched if only our religious and social traditions practiced what they preached in our personal lives; in our families’ decisions; in our work and vocations; in the ministry of our churches, synagogues, and mosques; in our collective witness. In all these ways we can put the faith community’s influence at the service of this radical neighbor-love ethic that is both faithful to God and to the common good.
“The Catholic vision of the common good is as clear as it is challenging. The Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church which the Vatican released in 2004, notes that the specific “demands” of the common good are deeply connected to the fundamental dignity and rights of the human person: these demands concern above all the commitment to peace, the organization of the State’s powers, a sound juridical system, the protection of the environment, and the provision of essential services to all, some of which are at the same time human rights: food, housing, work, education and access to culture, transportation, basic health care, the freedom of communication and expression, and the protection of religious freedom.” (Thanks, Rev. Rohr!) A true commitment to the common good dates back to the very beginnings of our faith and is rooted in both the Old and New Testaments. The Gospels teach us to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
The common good also requires a concern for the entire world community. In 1963, Pope John XXIII introduced the phrase “universal common good” in the Catholic social tradition in recognition of the duty to promote the good of our neighbors around the globe as well as at home. If love is truly your purpose and path, it is time to double down on prayer. That means getting on our knees (if you can) to pray. It means standing on our feet and marching in the streets. It means praying through participation in the life of our government and society, and through creating a civic order that reflects goodness, justice, mercy, and compassion—this is the very heart and dream of God for all of God’s children and God’s creation. Now is the time to commit to the Golden Rule and the Common Good. Food for thought…