Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ. (From the collect of the Mass for the First Sunday of Advent)
Christmas is coming; the race is on – shopping, baking, cleaning, decorating, socializing. Most of us run around a lot this time of year; but toward whom are we running – the Christ child or the cashier in the checkout line?
We meet Christ in our liturgy – his Real Presence is always there at Mass, but when we are not too distracted by our own worries we can also see Him in the least of our brothers and sisters.
Jesus tells us where to find him in Matthew 25: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me … Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
The church teaches us to recognize and fulfill the obligations of justice and charity in society. We have a responsibility toward building, organizing and creating a functioning society through political, economic and administrative obligations. The church (meaning all of us) has a secular mission to work toward the common good. Lay people are called to help build the kingdom of God in the world around us.
Common good is defined as the social conditions that allow for the authentic development of the whole person. It is a human right that grows out of the dignity that God assigns to every person.
When we slow down long enough to look for Jesus in the least of our brothers and sisters, we see how societal conditions may be contributing to poverty, illness, oppression, or ignorance.
Members of society contribute to the common good through their generous use of the spiritual, social, or material means they possess for the good of others and to create conditions that allow people to live more easily a humane existence.
Catholic Charities agencies meet urgent temporal needs of many people. Charitable giving is necessary and important; but often the relief is only temporary and does not address the underlying conditions that caused the problem.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference advocates for public policies that improve the conditions for people to thrive. Its mission is to formulate positions on issues, officially represent the church before state government and to foster a public understanding of the church’s teaching and concern about morality, health, welfare, human rights, education and yes, the common good.
The PCC is an authoritative resource for Catholics and a vehicle for change. Our website, www.pacatholic.org, is a place for citizens to seek the truth about perplexing societal questions and find links to the Catholic Advocacy Network’s tools for urging our elected officials to vote in support of the common good.
The political challenges that face our nation, our state, and our cities and towns demand urgent moral choices on behalf of all citizens. Pray, inform your conscience, speak up for the common good, and be generous with your spiritual, social, or material means.
As we run forth to meet our Christ, let’s look for Jesus around us and work toward improving our society for all of God’s children to achieve the happy and healthy existence they deserve.
Amy Hill is communications director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs agency of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania. Stay up-to-date with Catholic news and issues at www.pacatholic.org, www.facebook.com/pacatholic, and www.twitter.com/pacatholic.