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Christian Laity - Jewels in the Crown of Salvation - by Andre Gomes  
  Posted On : 30 Jun 2018   Posted by Fr. Andre Gomes (Gonsalo Garcia Community)  
 

Christian Laity - Jewels in the Crown of Salvation - by Andre Gomes


Catholics world over have been discovering their pride of place in the Church. The Church, the mystical body of Christ is made up of many members, each uniquely blessed with diverse characteristics – yet unified by his or her baptism in the faith. The Catholic Church bestows upon the baptised, the great honour of being prophet, priest and king. This implies that every individual baptised in the Catholic Church would share in these three ministries. While ordained ministers have a special ministerial role to play in the Church of Christ, the lay faithful too have a moral obligation to be active members of the body of Christ in the temporal world. Vatican Council II was pivotal in helping rediscover the Church as the ‘People of God’. This was the initial premise upon which the Church was founded 2000 years ago, which then began as a community of Jesus’ disciples, each rather different but with the same dignity of purpose and commitment. The mission was and remains the same – that of spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of God. It is to this calling that we Christians are, and should be, “Jewels in the Crown of Salvation”.


Lay vocation envisioned by Vatican II:

The Vatican Council II document Lumen Gentium describes the nature of the Church as that of a sacrament of communion with God and of unity with all people. It describes the Church as “Trinitarian”, that is a people formed as one by the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Vatican Council II deems that the laity:
i) Be incorporated into and participates in the Church, as a sacrament of communion with God and with all the people
ii) Be joined to Christ, as well as in the triune life of God with all the members of the Church
iii) Be called and sent to participate in the mission of proclaiming and establishing the kingdom of God on earth

In doing so, the laity would ensure that all of humanity might partake in redemption and salvation.

The 21st century Church:

The 20th century witnessed rapid developments in the field of science and consumerism. Population grew exponentially while the world appeared smaller. The penetration of communication media into homes and work places influenced thought and decision. Needs became wants and wants became desires, all of which then became objects of pleasure and happiness. Man’s satisfaction quotient changed by the minute and yet man never seems satisfied. The human person too was being witnessed as an object of greed, lust, ownership and brutality. Today in the 21st century, people stand entangled in the web of pseudo-happiness – one that is temporal and ego-centric. The Church may well be witnessing a people who though religious in observance, are worldly by nature. We are no longer an “us” people, but rather and “I”, “me” and “myself” people. The laity has a great role to play in the world today, than ever before, and people can achieve greater purpose in their Christian walk if they usher in the spirit of communion as one people of God.


The call to Koinonia:

Koinonia in Greek means “communion”. The Catholic Church is Koinonia by nature, drawn from the Blessed Trinity. Created by God the Father, saved in faith by Jesus and inspired by the Holy Spirit, the faithful are called to a communion of “love” and “service” at all times in their lives. So while the faithful recognise the precepts under which Christ established His Church, revering Episcopal and Priestly ministries governed by Gospel teachings and adhering to traditions of the fathers of the Church, the laity is called to co-exist in Koinonia.

The Church today stands as a treasure trove in the wealth of wisdom and experience available with both the laity and the religious. The Church beckons to her people in the Spirit of Jesus to draw nearer as one body of Christ, each with her or his God given talent. Called to be soldiers for Christ, the faithful though challenged by diversity in thought surrounding them must be emboldened in their walk, strengthened in their faith and serve as witnesses of holiness and of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. In doing so, the faithful takes the message of Jesus Christ centre-stage, rendering it more effective and a reliable solution to everyday problems in the world. This calls for the active participation of both the laity and the religious in parishes and an enabling of the clergy to interact with people entrusted to their care. Koinonia does not begin and end with our communion in liturgical celebrations within the Church, but goes beyond the four walls of our Church and into the communities in which we live.


Jewels in the crown of salvation:

We live in a world that is largely driven by materialism and the pursuit of worldly pleasures. In these challenging times, the Christians laity is called to strengthen its faith, focus on the centrality of the Word of God and on the Holy Eucharist. We are the pearls of great price, whose salvation has been purchased by God the Father through the death of Christ on the cross. As priceless jewels, we need to be of value to others. The apostle Mathew gives us an important aspect of Christian living - “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Mathew 5:14, NRSV). Every Christian is called to be an authentic witness of the faith in both word and deed. Living in a land of religious diversity, the laity are called to exhibit Christian spirit in our walk and our talk, in our daily living, in our prayer lives and in our living out the Gospel values. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mathew 5:16 NRSV). The late Pope John Paul II was optimistic in saying that the laity in forming Christian communities can become heralds of salvation.


Role of the lay faithful:

All baptised Christians are called to minister to people around them in love and service. The laity is called to join hands with people from different walks of life and deal with issues plaguing their lives. These could be on civic, political, social, moral and environmental issues, where the laity should take up active roles and usher in Christian values of love, forgiveness, charity, peace and hope. The Christian faithful must not shy away from adopting modern channels of communication and mass-media, to reach out to a world driven by erroneous thinking and immoral values. If St. Paul could find merit in communicating God’s message of love and healing through his many letters 2000 years ago, can we not use the power of social media to reach out in these times?

It is imperative that the laity must take up the renewal of the temporal order as their own special obligation. However, this must be accomplished in the light of the Gospel, with the guidance and mind of the Church and inspired by Christian charity. This would involve a confluence of culture, of society and of all aspects of the kingdom of man with the "higher principles of Christian life" (Apostolicam Actuositatem {AA}, 7). The late (St.) Pope John Paul II wrote that "in particular, the lay faithful are called to restore to creation all its original value" (Christifidelis Laici, 14). This task is not just the priority of priests or religious; in fact, they may not be perfectly disposed or entirely capable of such activity. The laity can properly perform this crucial activity, by virtue of their skills in the marketplace, in various institutions of society and in their very co-existence with people around them. "The apostolate in the social milieu, that is, the effort to infuse a Christian spirit into the mentality, customs, laws, and structures of the community in which one lives, is so much the duty and responsibility of the laity that it can never be performed properly by others" (AA 13). In other words, the laity needs to realize they have important work to do, and the time to start that work is now.


Reflection:

“The laity should not feel apart from the church, but rather at the heart of the church. This is the time when the church needs to be united to answer fundamental questions about society.” While the structure of the Church may be hierarchical to guide, preserve and enhance the faith of her people; the ‘life’ of the Church must be communitarian. So while apostolic authority plays the role of the Good Shepherd guiding the flock, the active involvement of the faithful is essential to the life of the Church. The active participation of the laity – “Jewels in the crown of salvation”, would ensure lively mediating platforms, a robust forum of thought processes and a clear understanding of the humanitarian, moral, social, economic and civil needs, thereby fulfilling the three-fold office of the Church; of governing, teaching and sanctifying. AMEN!
***
[NB: This article is intended for St. Joseph’s Church, Mira Road website only. No part of this article may be reproduced, distributed, performed or otherwise displayed, without the prior written permission of the above author.]

 
     
 
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