“All these I will give to you, if you…” These familiar words to us today, have been uttered throughout time, perhaps most famously by the devil himself (Mat 4:9). Want to meet your family overseas? Watch your child play indoor sports? Do you want to keep your job? All these I will give you, if you…
There’s already a plethora of opinions and views regarding the effectiveness of lockdowns, mask mandates and vaccines, and so the good news my friends, is that today you will not get another dose on that topic. Rather, we will explore a couple of different words that have been brandied around rather carelessly, namely individual freedom and the common good.
The Church defines freedom in Article 3 paragraphs 1730-1731 of the Catechism as “the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act. to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility.” Moreover, it adds that, “God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions.” We are indeed born free, but not because the state tells us so, but because God created us so. The Church in its wisdom does remind us that “the exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything.” We cannot for example, slander or assault people as a legitimate way of expressing our freedom. St Thomas Aquinas went a step further and explained that “an evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention.” In other words, the end does not justify the means. Ending a pandemic is a good end – the question upon us is by what means?
But what about the common good? Again, important to begin with a definition. According to paragraph 1925 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “the common good consists of three essential elements: respect for and promotion of the fundamental rights of the person; prosperity, or the development of the spiritual and temporal goods of society; the peace and security of the group and of its members.” The dilemma today is whether one needs to give up freedom to help the common good? Does one need to forget the common good in order to have his individual freedom? To both questions I dare to say a resolute no. Without freedom, the only thing common is slavery. Without care for the common good, the only thing free is our vanity. American founding father Benjamin Franklin once said that, “any society that will give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” It’s been almost two years since the pandemic started: are we more free today? Are we safer? Fear seems to be the basis of every decision these days.
My friends, our faith is the freest, happiest faith in the planet. We have more feast days than anyone else, even our Mass is a celebration! Where else can you eat without using your hands, have babies screaming and crying and no one complains, and sing out loud with no one laughing at you? Someday, you might even get to shake hands with strangers and wish them peace. Exiting the parking lot is at times a little tricky, but, as Saint John Paul 2 repeatedly told us, “BE NOT AFRAID!”. We come freely as individuals, to celebrate in common with the Church community, the act of an Individual that was for the good of everyone. Many have died for this celebration of the One who died for the many. Let’s not forget them – let’s always remember Him (Christ is fully present at the Mass, at Eucharistic Adoration – come see Him… in person).
G.K. Chesterton once quipped that only twice the editors had refused to print what he had written, and it was for risk of offending the advertisers. He said, “on both those occasions the editor denied me liberty of expression because I said that the widely advertised stores and large shops were really worse than little shops.” (The Bluff of the Big Shops) He wrote this in 1926 – not much has changed! Our little shops are still better than large shops, and supporting Small Farm-a instead of Big Pharma still gets you in trouble! Chesterton of course, did not change his articles, and went on to publish several books, thousands of essays, and founded his own newspaper. always writing with the risk of offending.
Like Chesterton, like the saints, like the martyrs, whatever you decide to do or not do, do so out of your own conscience and God-given free will, and not fear, because as St Paul tells us, “For freedom Christ has set us free.” (Gal 5:1)
St Joseph – pray for us.
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