Day 25 – Common Good
“Sharing of goods” is the same as “working for the common good.” By working for the common good, the Augustinian performs his/her duties as service to the Church and to humanity. Rule 7, 2 of the Augustinian rule states: “The degree to which you are concerned for the common good (rem communem) rather than for your own, is the criterion by which you can judge how much progress you have made.” This passage synthesizes Augustine’s conviction regarding personal growth in Christian love.
It appears in a context wherein Augustine gives the guidelines for day-to-day life in community, a life characterized by mutual service. Thus, there is the importance of the social dimension in Augustine’s thought. Since human life is social by nature, the development of a person cannot be separated from its social context. The same applies to the new life of the believer in Christ. The new man that is born from the waters of baptism lives the commandment of love. This life of love is verified in one’s service to the brothers and sisters in the community. Within this context, one’s progress in love is directly proportional to the intensity of one’s concern for the common good. The common good is “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals to reach their fulfilment more fully and more easily.”
It possesses three essential elements: (a) the respect for the person as such; (b) the social well-being and development of the group to which the person belongs; and (c) peace which is the stability and security of the just order. The common good is graphically illustrated in the Lucan description of the Jerusalem community: The community of believers was of one heart and one mind and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common… There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale and put them at the feet of the apostles and they were distributed to each according to need.
This ideal was first lived by Augustine as a lay man with his friends in Tagaste, before he made it the ideal for the monasteries he founded. The memory of Augustine the layman living with his friends according to the “rule of the apostles” have led Augustinian lay seculars to declare: Augustinian community consciousness urges us to do whatever we can to make the ideal of the primitive community of Jerusalem an inspirational force in both the ecclesial and the human communities, so that sharing of goods may be the sign and sacrament of unity of hearts and everyone may have what he requires, thus leaving no one in need. Augustinian spirituality requires us to promote a fraternal distribution of goods which will show that we all believe ourselves to be friends and brothers in Jesus Christ under the fatherhood of God.