Parts of American society seem oblivious to the Catholic concept of the common good. We desperately need to dust off this challenging, central and beautiful part of church teaching.

To accentuate the common good over individual benefit is an extension of the loving ministry of the Lord himself, who fed the Masses and then gave himself for the good of the many.

St. Augustine, in “City of God,” explicitly asks, “Is human well-being found in the good of the whole society, the common good?” His answer, which takes up 12 chapters, is an emphatic yes.

In the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern world, a document that holds some of the highest authority the church puts forward, the fathers of the Second Vatican Council described the common good as the “sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.”

Don’t let anyone tell you that the common good conflicts with individual good. According to Catholic teaching that’s a false distinction. In other words, what’s good for the gander is good for the goose.

We should cherish American individual liberty. Humans invariably suffer under regimes that broadly limit freedoms. But communism or socialism is not what the common good means for the church, which predates those political systems.

The common good emerges from the divine vision of the world, portrayed in the Garden of Eden and continually referred to by Jesus, part of whose mission was to restore the world to God’s plan. Recall that the peace of the garden was shattered when individuals began to focus on their own benefit.

Today, whether it’s masks, vaccines, abortion, climate change or infrastructure, let’s let the common good rise above personal convenience and desire. That is God’s intention for us.