Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Laity Are the People Of God

A missionary priest working in Korea writes in the pastoral bulletin for priests on the concept of function.

He recalls a visit home and seeing the album of his sister-in-law that was published in commemoration of their 50th anniversary of graduation. They were asked to answer for the 50th anniversary yearbook whether they realized the expectations they had 50 years before at graduation.

He spent some time reflecting on the expectation that he had for life. Our expectations are the seasoning of life. When we are young, we dream and think a lot about what we will do in the future. But these days young people are worried. Finding a job is not easy. The playing field in which they will enter is far from level and they know it. They will have a more difficult time than their parents, understandable but sad.

But those who live by faith know that God did not call us to succeed but to do our best and live faithfully. Even if it's not what's desired you find another way and have the courage to challenge yourself. Attitude is important. Living the virtuous life, searching for wisdom, and living the life of a disciple are not the values of society and we get contrary messages of other ways. Society values ​​functionality and encourages and seduces us in the need to succeed.

A few decades ago, there were priests in American society who viewed the priesthood as functional only. This was easy to believe since many priests have many other positions in the Church besides pastoral activity. In English, they are seen as 'hyphenated priests'. Priests work fulltime in many fields, as teachers, administrators, researchers, authors, the arts, etc. Of course, the Church clearly teaches that the life of a priest is not functional but ontological. The right orientation in all things and the desire to do God's will, make all fit easily into the mission of a priest. Protestant pastors, for the most part, see their work as functional but this is not what it should be for priests.

It is easy to see why many laypeople have the same idea on their roll in the church as one of function. The laity also participates in the universal priesthood. The priesthood is a mission given to a baptized person. However, we need teaching to emphasize that this priesthood is not the same as the ministerial priesthood but at the same time not just functional. This mission of the laity is not only participating in Masses, praying, serving, and helping to support the church. They are full-time disciples, not part-time disciples. Religious, clergy, and laypeople are the same in this respect.

The day-to-day daily activities of the laypeople, at home, working, shopping, at play, relating with others, can all be related to their mission as disciples. The laity, like the priests, do everything that comes from their being as disciples and the universal priesthood of the laity.

Of course, this is not making us superior in any way or considering us better than anybody else but an understanding of our calling to mission of all disciples. We are all one in Christ. The priesthood of the priest and the universal priesthood of the laity are both ontological, using a philosophical word. If this became the understanding of the laity would this not make a tremendous difference in the way they saw their calling?

"Hence the laity, dedicated as they are to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit are marvelously called and prepared so that even richer fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit —indeed even the hardships of life if patiently born—all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (Cathechism #901).

"When anyone is joined to Christ, he is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come"(2 Cor 5:17).

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