Thursday, June 23, 2022

The not so common good. . .

Often in the Prayer of the Church we pray for the common good.  Usually this is part of the petition for our nation, those who govern, and society.  But the common good is not some utilitarian phrase or some communal notion of what fits best, works best for, and will benefit the most.  This is not like trying to schedule some large committee meeting or family gathering while people offer up what might work for them and what won't.  We are not asking God to pick and choose between outcomes and, in general, to pick one that benefits the most people (while always benefiting us!).  No, that is not what common good means.

Common good does not mean something evil or immoral.  It does not mean the end justifies the means.  It does not make relative what God has made absolute.  It does not compromise the Ten Commandments or the Gospel.  We do not asking God for short cuts that lead around what is good, right, true, holy, pure, and beautiful.  We are not asking God for ignoble ends that, while utilitarian, are unworthy of our prayers or of the name of Jesus with which we end them.  The stuff of our prayers does not prosper what is against God's will and purpose but exactly for His will to be done.

Common good does not mean ordinary or plain.  It does not mean everyone having some bread while no one having any meat.  It does not reduce the goal to something achievable or within our grasp as if everyone having moderate health is better than good health for all.  We are not constraining God by this prayer but asking for the fullness of His grace and power to intervene for the good of all to benefit their holiness of life here and their eternal salvation in Christ Jesus.  So this is first of all a prayer that the many may come to faith and be able with us to articulate this faith in the prayer:  Thy will be done.

Common good does not mean exception.  My goodness, how we love to live by exception to every rule and cause!  We would rather have exceptions than rules -- so we even wonder who do we not have to forgive rather than hearing the call to forgive as Christ has forgiven us!  Yes, by all means, exceptions are the rule.  Except here.  Even when the good is not good enough, it does not allow us the exception to do evil.  How many and how great are the abominations that slip in under the wire “as an exception!”  Abortion is a good example.  We make relative the gift of life in pursuit of the larger good a life well lived (by our standards, anyway).  So common good means that it would be better to end the life in the womb than have them enter such a perverse world or cause mom or dad a responsibility they neither want or are ready to assume or find life without a perfect home where they receive perfect love.  

Justice is the common good -- even when it cuts us to the heart.  Mercy is the common good -- precisely when it is not rational or justified.  Life is the common good -- when it is messy, problematic, and hard. Holiness is the common good -- indeed, THE good the Law expects for holiness is perfect love!  These are the worthy petitions of a people who know God's extravagant grace in Christ -- something so uncommon it is a mystery.  Human dignity is not a commodity we possess that others must honor but the generous love of a God who loves the unlovable and saves those who cannot save themselves.  Common good lives in the arena of this uncommon grace and the Spirit who warms our cold and dead hearts to faith.  Think about this the next time you hear that phrase.

No comments: