Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The prophetic mission of the lay faithful

In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, Pope John Paul II wrote that, "Through their participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, 'who proclaimed the kingdom of his Father by the testimony of his life and by the power of his word,' the lay faithful are given the ability and responsibility to accept the Gospel in faith and to proclaim it in word and deed, without hesitating to courageously denounce evil." (No. 14).

And yet, how often do the lay faithful encounter opposition from other members of the laity as well as priests and religious when they strive to fulfill their prophetic mission and to "courageously denounce evil." Why is this? Largely because, "To understand properly the lay faithful's position in the Church in a complete, adequate and specific manner it is necessary to come to a deeper theological understanding of their secular character in light of God's plan of salvation and in the context of the mystery of the Church" (Christifideles Laici, No. 15).

Pope John Paul II explains that, "..all the members of the Church are sharers in this secular dimension but in different ways. In particular the sharing of the lay faithful has its own manner or realization and function, which, according to the Council, is 'properly and particularly' theirs. Such manner is designated with the expression 'secular character.' In fact the Council, in describing the lay faithful's situation in the secular world, points to it above all, as the place in which they receive their call from God.." (Christifideles Laici, No. 15).

We read in 1 Corinthians 12 that, "As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit...there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I do not need you.'" (1 Cor 12: 12, 13; 20, 21).

And yet, this is precisely what so many of the lay faithful encounter as they strive to fulfill their prophetic mission and to act as salt and light upon the secular world. Too often, the lay faithful are looked upon by certain priests and religious as "second-class citizens" within the Church. Then again, some parishes - anxious to maintain a status quo - will only permit a select few to participate in the life of the parish.

But such an attitude is not holy. It is devilish. It is demonic: "..have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs" (James 2: 4). And again, "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice." (James 3: 16).

Let us all strive to remember that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not our "private preserve." Let's leave behind all pride, selfish ambition, envy and jealousy. And when we come across another who has been graced with particular gifts which we may not possess ourselves, let's give thanks to the Holy Spirit who distributes His gifts as He pleases and to whom He wants.

Paul Anthony Melanson

1 comment:

Matlee said...

What a beautiful post about the Holy Spirit's gifts!!! You are absolutely right in saying that some parishes maintain a status quo and exclude certain people because they are faithful to the Church or are perceived as a "threat" to those who want to dominate that parish.

Keep up the good work here at La Salette Journey Paul.....GBU!

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