To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit
for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12: 7 (NRSV translation)
The concept of the common good is central to Catholic morality and Catholic social teaching, We are not made for ourselves alone but we are made in the image of a Triune God, a God who is community in unity.
There is no scripture passage that defines the common good and even the translation “the common good” in the citation above from 1 Corinthians will not be heard in US Catholic Churches, where the translation, reflecting a modern individualist bias, is “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
But the full passage from Paul does point to the insight that our gifts are not for ourselves alone, but for building up the Body of Christ.
It is all too easy for us who have been raised in the individualistic US culture to think that my gifts are mine alone, for my benefit alone. We fail to see that our gifts are gifts – from God, our families, and our communities. We are not self-made individuals.
We have been given gifts which we are called to treasure and develop, not for our own self-aggrandizement but for the good of all, especially the poor.
This is a great challenge to us who have been raised in the US culture of individualism. But the culture of our faith offers a different challenge: how to use our gifts for the common good.
Jesus, as the wedding feast of Cana, did not change the water into wine to glorify himself, but to enrich the feast. Notice that the steward didn’t know where the water turned win came from.
For me, Jesus did this first sign not for Himself, but for all of us so that we may see that our mission is to welcome all to the Lord’s Table, where there is enough bread and wine for all to eat and share.