The Laity is Essential to Work of Christ by Rev. Jack Peterson
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way." Thomas said to him, "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him" Philip said to him, "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.
The lay members of the Church share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
It is true. Every Christian is baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as well as into His priestly, prophetic and kingly ministry. The new life that flows from Jesus and His resurrection brings to the baptized God's mercy, healing and newness of life; however, it also confers the honor and duty to share with Him in the work of building and spreading the kingdom of God on this earth.
It is true that there are two distinct ways to share in the priesthood of Christ. In addition to the participation that is common to every Christian, there is the unique share that some members of the Church have by reason of their call from God to the sacrament of holy orders. The way in which priests and bishops share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ is different from the common share of every baptized person. It is different in kind and not just in degree. Jesus gave to the apostles, the first bishops of the Church, the grace and capacity to serve in persona Christi capitis, that is, in the person of Christ the head. As a result, those called to holy orders are configured to Christ, the head of the Church, in a unique way so that they might sanctify, preach and govern the Church in the Lord's name and with His authority.
Allow me to return to the reality that the laity shares in the priestly ministry of Jesus Christ. In our second reading this week, from the First Letter of Peter, the first vicar of Christ, or pope of the early Church, exhorts the newly formed Christian community: "Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:5)
Jesus knows that life can be very difficult, that your lives are often filled with great challenges, sacrifices and, at times, heavy crosses to carry. You share in the priesthood of Christ by intentionally offering these spiritual sacrifices to the Father and uniting them to the saving work of Jesus, especially at Mass.
"Lumen Gentium," one of the more important documents that was produced at Vatican II, professes: "To those (the baptized) whom he (Jesus) intimately joins to his life and mission he also gives a share in his priestly office, to offer spiritual worship for the glory of the Father and the salvation of man. 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 borne - all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (cf. 1 Peter 2:5) In the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God." (34)
So, one way in which you share in the priesthood of Jesus is to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.
Another way in which the lay members of the Church participate in the priesthood of Christ is by being a sacrament of Christ's presence in the world. It is your special call to bring Christ to every corner of the world, particularly where the priests and consecrated members do not go.
"Lumen Gentium" states it this way: "By reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will. They live in the world, that is, they are engaged in each and every work and business of the earth and in the ordinary circumstances of social and family life which, as it were, constitute their very existence. There they are called by God that, being led by the spirit of the Gospel, they may contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties. Thus, especially by the witness of their life, resplendent in faith, hope and charity they must manifest Christ to others. It pertains to them in a special way so to illuminate and order all temporal things with which they are so closely associated that these may be affected and grow according to Christ." (31)
I cannot possibly explain the importance of this truth of our faith. The Lord has called you, the lay members of the Church, to assist Him in the most critical work of sanctifying the world, of illuminating the temporal world with the light of Christ. In this way, you share in the priesthood of Christ as His baptized children and dear collaborators. May you respond humbly generously and courageously to the unique and critically important mission entrusted to you as lay members of the Church.
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