July 21, 2017

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Ken Ogorek

Who are these ‘people of good will?’ They acknowledge much for us

Church documents often mention “people of good will.” When Catholics worship we sing the ancient prayer “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.”

What is a person of good will? Here are three thoughts:

People of good will acknowledge the uniqueness of the human person.

While our uniqueness gives us no right to lord it over the rest of creation in a wasteful or cruel way, only the human person is created in the image and likeness of God.

Each human person enjoys unearned dignity, deserving unconditional love and a foundational respect. Whether we like or admire a person can be a separate, but related matter.

A person of good will sees humanity’s unique place in the context of creation, working to honor each human person as well as the rest of creation in ways proper to both respectively.

A person of good will acknowledges that goodness isn’t a majority rule proposition.

The playwright Ibsen observed “The majority is never right until it does right.”

A person of good will realizes that on matters of principle—versus matters of preference like “What flavor of ice cream is the best?”—the fact that she or he thinks an action is good has little ultimate bearing on whether it actually is good.

People of good will collaborate with others in discerning what is good and true based on various factors such as historical wisdom, natural law and the fruit that specific deeds tend to bear. This can be challenging, but it’s safer than making morality overly vulnerable to group dynamics.

People of good will acknowledge the importance of freedom.

Part of being created in God’s image and likeness means being endowed with a free will. Coercion should generally be avoided.

Conversely, we are responsible for decisions we freely make. The fact that our wills often need a bit of fine-tuning is evident in that even people of good will at times tend to think, say and do what they shouldn’t—as well as failing to capitalize on opportunities to do, say and think good things. A person of good will takes the both/and approach of refining her or his will while working with others for the common good.

This column isn’t a comprehensive treatment of what it means to be a person of good will. Maybe it’ll be a conversation starter about humanity, goodness and liberty.

May all people of good will collaborate to help make our earthly journey peaceful and our eternal life heavenly.

(This column originally appeared in The Indianapolis Star. It is reprinted with permission. Ken Ogorek is archdiocesan director of catechesis. E-mail him at kogorek@archindy.org.)

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