Pope Francis recently invited us to  … “act personally instead of just looking and criticizing the work of others from the balcony.”  This is not the first time he has used this image. His statement got me thinking about bystanders and first responders. As Vincentians are we bystanders or first responders? Should we be more?

Bystanders and First responders

A bystander is a person who is present at an event or incident but does not take part.

A first responder is a person who is likely to be among the first people to arrive at and assist at the scene of an emergency such as an accident, natural disaster, or terrorist attack and has received some training for this.

Vincentians are noted for being first responders. Pope Francis asks Vincentians, and indeed everyone, to go beyond not only being mere first responders at the crash scene of so many lives. He invites us to become actively engaged in the political process that can lead to systemic change which reduces the number of crashes.

Common Good, Political Action and Systemic Change

He reminds us that every community will be a better place “if there are no people who watch it ‘from afar’, like a picture postcard, who observe its life only ‘from the balcony’ without getting involved” directly with the many problems of the men and women who, whether we want it or not, are our brothers and sisters”.

The authentic face of politics and its reason for being,” Francis said, is “an invaluable service to the good of the whole community. And that is why the Church’s social doctrine regards it as a noble form of charity.”

In order to re-establish the independence and the ability of politics to serve the public good, he continued, we must “act in such a way as to diminish inequalities, to promote the welfare of families with concrete measures, to provide a solid framework of rights-duties – balance both – and make them effective for everyone.”

“I invite you to consider the nobility of political action in the name and favor of the people,” he said. In recent years, the true aim of politics has appeared to retreat in the face of aggression and financial power.

Thus, we must “rediscover the value” of this essential part of society and give our contribution – recognizing the need for political ideas to be held up to reality and reshaped as necessary.

This won’t fix everything quickly or easily, of course, he continued. “The magic wand doesn’t work in politics.” But if a politician does wrong: constructively tell them, he encouraged.

Therefore, the Pope said, from the centrality of the “piazza” – the square – goes out the message that it is “essential to work together for the common good.”

“Let us pray to the Lord for the raising of good politicians who really care for society, the people and the good of the poor.”

Reflection questions

  • Do we hold our politicians responsible for the common good?
  • Do we pray to God for good politicians?

Source: The Catholic Herald


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