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Culture of Life Series 3: Rejoice in the Good

November 2, 2008

Part Three in a Series

I’m a little behind on these as I’ve had incredibly packed days lately. Hope to get more than one written today.

3. Rejoice in the Good

The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the impetus and courage to do good. Joy, then, does not break with solidarity. When it is the right kind of joy, when it is not egotistic, when it comes from the perception of the good, then it wants to communicate itself, and it gets passed on. (Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth)

There’s so much that could be said on this topic that I hardly know where to begin. First, I suppose is that we should all keep learning to recognize the good. Contrary to an unfortunately common opinion, it is not simply something that’s “not bad”. And so, for example, a “clean” movie is not automatically a good movie!

Another consideration is that, though politics and protests and boycotts can be worthwhile things, they will not in-and-of themselves repair our culture. They’re generally defensive measures to keep things from getting worse. But if no one is out there evangelizing and proposing the good and showing by example the value of being a Christian, we really won’t get anywhere. So these aren’t things we can completely set aside because we’re too busy with the other stuff.

There are many wonderful things about the pro-Life movement and by its nature the movement is completely unselfish. We’re trying to save children who will likely be raised to vote and think differently from us and yet we think their lives are intrinsically worthwhile, so that part doesn’t even matter to us! That’s something worth thinking about!

One thing that the movement can use some work on, though, is hope. When we despairingly say (and I’ve heard it said often from many directions) that we haven’t made any progress in the pro-Life movement in the last thirty years, I have to think that they haven’t been around the movement long enough. Parental notification laws and 24 hour waiting periods are really good things and very reasonable, helpful restrictions. When we proclaim that we haven’t made any progress it leads many to conclude that the political aspect of the pro-Life movement is completely irrelevant. It’s really just a sign of our impatience.

Rejoicing in the good shows gratitude to God and builds perspective, which helps us keep our balance in tough times. Balance is important not just so that we don’t fall into despair (which does not come from God!) but also so that we don’t make ourselves irrelevant by giving people excuses to ignore us.

One thing I’ve observed over time is that it simply takes a lot of patience for grass-roots movements to connect up with the mainstream. But it does happen! I’ve especially seen a change in recent years in many parishes welcoming things like pro-life activities and apologetics speakers that were not very common just a few years ago.

And with patience, goes humility. The things that need changing in this world are not all the job of one person. If we each play our unique role, using whatever gifts God has given us for the purpose, we can make real progress.

This proper way of serving others also leads to humility. The one who serves does not consider himself superior to the one served, however miserable his situation at the moment may be. Christ took the lowest place in the world – the Cross – and by this radical humility he redeemed us and constantly comes to our aid. Those who are in a position to help others will realize that in doing so they themselves receive help; being able to help others is no merit or achievement of their own. This duty is a grace. The more we do for others, the more we understand and can appropriate the words of Christ: “We are useless servants”. We recognize that we are not acting on the basis of any superiority or greater personal efficiency, but because the Lord has graciously enabled us to do so. There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But precisely when we are helped by the knowledge that, in the end, we are only instruments in the Lord’s hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world. In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est – emphasis mine)

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