Seeing God’s People in Every Issue and Situation

By Chris Creo

WE ALL try to do the good thing. We all try to do the right thing. And we are told that to do the right thing is to follow or adhere to one’s principle. Because what we hold as our personal principles come from our conscience. For conscience “is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths.” (Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World n.16).conscience1

Even for those who do not believe in God, conscience still represents an inner force where one “detects a law which he [or she] does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that (GS, 16).”

We usually link conscience to intuition or what feels right. Principles, therefore, are concrete expressions of what we feel is right—right judgment, right speech, and right action. Concepts such as democracy, equality, fairness, progress, rights. These are all examples of principles we try to uphold so that we may call ourselves good persons.

But sometimes we become too focus on upholding these principles that we forget or overlook a crucial element. That is, behind every principle or concept lies the human person.

For example, I heard a politician on the radio saying that the “time of entitlement is gone and the time of taking responsibility and lifting our own weight has began” or similar words to that effect. This is in connection with the government’s refusal to give A$25 million to a fruit cannery in Victoria to partly fund the updating and re-tooling of its machineries and equipment.

noholdenThe politician says the government cannot waste the people’s money to aid a profitable multinational company and by its decision not to help the government can focus on returning the budget of the country to surplus. Later news reported that the government is encouraging the company to re-negotiate its enterprise bargaining agreement with the workers, saying the workers are getting too much. The local MP (she’s from the same party as the government) was vehemently denying this last point, saying the package was not overly generous and that the company already did all it can to minimise cost–by laying-off the maintenance workers and by out sourcing the job.

This was also the position of the government in the car manufacturing industry, which resulted to the withdrawal and eventual closure of all car manufacturers in the country, finding thousands of workers losing their jobs. The same position seems to be applying to the draught-relief assistance that farmers are asking from the government.

Not to waste the people’s money is a good principle. It implies prudence on the part of government politicians in managing the wealth of the community. But to apply this principle without seeing the human person; without considering the people or the community that would be affected by the application of such principle is misguided and not really an act of conscience. Because acting in conscience should always move us towards doing good; towards loving others. Here we see that the subject of right judgment and right action is always the good of the human person or the community. Principles and ideologies are just guides or tools so we might achieve the good of the human person. They are not the ends themselves.

nohelpIn the issue of government subsidies to industries or aids to communities or sections of the community, those people defending the government’s position seem to be dead set on treating these issues as purely economic; as long as the books are in the black everything should be all right. We may ask how withholding financial aid that poses a threat to the entire community’s livelihood; renegotiating workers compensation package so that these workers receive less be a good thing?

I recall an animated movie about ants. One of the soldier ants–the general–tries to drown the entire colony. When others asked him why he is doing it, he answered: “I am doing this for the colony!” On this, the lead ant character shouted: “BUT WE ARE THE COLONY!” Ironically this seems to be the same line we hear from people who justify letting an entire industry close down leaving thousands of workers jobless. “We’re doing it for the country!” Maybe we should also remind them: “WE ARE THE COUNTRY!”

When we take away the human element in every issue or situation, we are treating human beings, as Pope Francis said in his apostolic exhortation, as “consumer goods to be used and then discarded (Joy of the Gospel, n. 53.2).” For this we are spreading a “throw away culture” or an economy and a culture of exclusion.

Just as the Holy Father said: “It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers.'”

Making “principled” judgment and action that promotes this culture of exclusion and throw away economic outlook does not make us good persons. When we dehumanise others we are also dehumanising ourselves. Ironically if we continue to promote this kind of thinking; of excluding people, sometime in the future others who would get hold of power and authority may decide that we are no longer useful. Then we may find ourselves the ones being excluded.

On the other hand, the Gospel message proclaims that we are all connected with one another because each and everyone of us is a son and daughter of God. Our call or vocation, therefore, is to affirm each other’s humanity and to offer each other the charity that God offered first—His own Son in order for us to be united with Him and share in His glory.

The Christian call to holiness is to promote inclusion that is based on respect for the human dignity since we are created in the image and likeness of God. Our task is to discern the face of God in each of us and be the icon of Christ who came not to be served but to serve.

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