“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”Preamble of the United States Constitution
The words of the Preamble above allow us insight into the intentions of those who established the constitution that governs our country. These words remind us why individual governments decided to come together and become the United States. I admire the idealism of our founders and yearn for us as a country to live up to these ideals and form a more perfect Union. They are not far from the ideals that form God’s Beloved Community.
Let’s talk about the General Welfare that our country is supposed to promote. As a Catholic with years of Catholic education and formation I am acquainted with our teachings about the Common Good. For us, as Catholics, ethical and moral decisions cannot be made without considering the common good. It is our belief in the dignity of every human person that determines our position on this, and guides our decisions.
The very word, “Catholic,” carries within it the principle that God’s salvation is meant for everyone, not just the few. What some Catholics can fail to understand is the meaning of salvation. Salvation is not the simplistic idea of getting ourselves to heaven after death. We Catholics do not go around asking people if they are saved. Eternal life with God is a free gift and we don’t earn it. Through Christ we begin living eternal life now and simply continue into eternal life after our life on earth ends.
When we are talking about salvation we are understanding that salvation is rescue, it is saving, it is freedom, it is deliverance, and our world shows us daily that salvation is needed right here, right now. Humanity has made a mess of things and something needs to save us from ourselves.
When we are working on behalf of the Common Good, or the General Welfare, of “We the People,” we are cooperating with God’s plan for humanity. This means we do what we can to see to it that every person has enough of the goods and resources of our society to easily live fulfilling lives. In other words, this means that everyone has enough so that no one has to stand in a food bank line, live homeless on our streets, go without medical care, or sell themselves to survive.
The Common Good is based on the principle of balance — no one with too much and no one with too little. Pretty simple principle to understand, isn’t it? It is not saying that everyone has the same amount, but everyone has enough. It is easy to see that the ideal of promoting the General Welfare of our people has never been appreciated in our country. From our beginnings we had economic inequalities and there were people without enough to survive, while others had much more than they needed. Today the growing number of poor people, of people without houses to live in, shows that we have drifted far from our original purpose.
From our beginnings there have been disagreements about the purpose of government. Some see it as on the side of corporations and business, and the wealthy. For example, the existence of things like the police force came about basically to protect the wealthy. Others still believe that the purpose of government is for the sake of all citizens, but the definition of who is a real citizen can change, and their focus is usually on those in the middle class. Those in the lower income bracket are often over looked.
As a country we have tended to place the General Welfare of all the people last in our priorities. Our two-party system and the way we finance campaigns has almost guaranteed that our system can be manipulated by those whose concern is for themselves, and not for all.
When I turn on the news these days and listen to the legislators argue over a needed relief bill I am struck by the lack of concern for those most in need. One symptom of how off course we are as a country is the way a few are pushing for protection for corporations from being sued if their workers get Covid 19, and that this license to be careless toward workers is taken seriously. There are millions (over 7 million) of people who have lost their jobs due to this pandemic. Thousands of small businesses have closed their doors, many that will not open again. There are millions of people on the brink of disaster. Relief for those most in need can not come soon enough, but will it come at all?
It is lower income people who are being hit the hardest by the economic fallout due to Covid 19. They receive the least amount of help, and that grudgingly. Why is that? If we describe actions that go against the will of God as sin, and I do, then this lack of care for the least among us is sin. What is so offensive to me is that there are Catholics in the Senate and the House who are betraying their faith by failing to take into consideration the Common good.
The purpose of our country and purpose of our God come together in the ideal of promoting the General Welfare of the people who live within the boundaries of our nation. We need to be involved in politics and call on our representatives to promote the General Welfare that we need. No one should be going without food, without housing, without fulfilling work, without hope. It is up to all of us to work toward the Common Good.
So, my beloved in Christ, let us do our best to promote the Common Good.