In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters. This option entails recognizing the implications of the universal destination of the world’s goods, but, as I mentioned in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, it demands before all else an appreciation of the immense dignity of the poor in the light of our deepest convictions as believers. We need only look around us to see that, today, this option is in fact an ethical imperative essential for effectively attaining the common good.
The gospel tells up front that God has cast down the mighty in their arrogance and lifted up the lowly; that “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, ¶ God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, ¶ so that no flesh might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Co 1:27–29). It says, “make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations” (Lk 16:9). It tells us the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man.
In short, it suggests that the central characters of the drama may not be our wonderful selves. We may, in fact, be the bit players and the poor, neglected, and overlooked are the stars. They may be the ones with the backstage pass to heaven and whether we make it may depend to a huge degree on them saying “He’s with me” when we get to the Pearly Gates. And that, of course, will depend on how we treat the least of these (who are, in the divine reckoning, the greatest).