Bishop Noonan’s Column: Common Good

Let your face shine upon your servant;
and teach me your laws.

Psalm 119:135

 

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Pray with me. Teach me, God, your laws. Help me to form my conscience by fasting and praying, by asking You, our loving and gracious God, to give me the ability to effectively proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ through my daily witness to our faith and its teachings.

Pope Francis said in Evangelii Gaudium, “an authentic faith . . . always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it. We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles, it hopes and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses. The earth is our common home and all of us are brothers and sisters.”

As local and national elections near, we are called to bring forth our faith and serve the common good with joy and hope, confident that God, who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son,” walks with us and strengthens us on the way (Jn 3:16). God desires that we help to build a “civilization of love”—one in which all human beings have the freedom and opportunity to experience the love of God and live out that love by making a free gift of themselves to one another.

Jesus mandates us to ‘go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation’ (Mk 16:15). “Here,” Pope Francis says, “‘the creation’ refers to every aspect of human life; consequently, ‘the mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ has a universal destination. Its mandate of charity encompasses all dimensions of existence, all individuals, all areas of community life, and all peoples. Nothing human can be alien to it.’”

Jesus’ mandate includes our engagement in political life. I have learned that the responsibility to make choices in political life rests with each individual in light of a properly formed conscience, and that participation goes well beyond casting a vote in a particular election.

The political realities of our nation present us, a people of faith, with opportunities and challenges. The right to life itself is not fully protected, especially for unborn children, the terminally ill, and the elderly, the most vulnerable members of the American family. We are often divided across lines of race, ethnicity, and economic inequality. We are a nation of immigrants, struggling to address the challenges of many new immigrants in our midst. We are a society built on the strength of our families, called to defend marriage and offer moral and economic supports for family life. We are a powerful nation in a violent world, confronting terror and trying to build a safer, more just, more peaceful world. We are called to care for those without food and shelter.

Our faith teaches us about the dignity of the human person, about the sacredness of every human life because we are of God. This is the core of Catholic moral and social teaching. Because we are people of both faith and reason, it is appropriate and necessary for us to bring this essential truth about human life and dignity to the public square. We are called to practice Christ’s commandment to “love one another” (Jn 13:34). We are also called to promote the wellbeing of all, to share our blessings with those most in need, to defend marriage, and to protect the lives and dignity of all, especially the weak, the vulnerable, the voiceless.

Some question whether it is appropriate for the Church to play a role in political life. The obligation to teach the moral truths that should shape our lives is central to the mission given to the Church by Jesus Christ. If we are a people of faith, how could we not bring the core of our being into every aspect of our life, including public life? Our nation’s tradition of pluralism is enhanced, not threatened, when religious groups and people of faith bring their convictions and concerns into public life. Indeed, our Church’s teaching is in accord with the foundational values that have shaped our nation’s history: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Let us all take to heart the urgency of our vocation to live in the service to others through the grace of Christ and ask humbly in prayer for an outpouring of the grace of the Holy Spirit on the United States of America.

My sisters and brothers in Christ, pray with me. Teach me, God, your laws. Help me to form my conscience by fasting and praying, by asking You, our loving and gracious God, to give me the ability to effectively proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ through my daily witness to our faith and its teachings.

Bishop John Noonan
Diocese of Orlando