Thursday, April 11, 2002

And Now The Feature Presentation...

Reflections on CFL: Paragraphs 1 through 3

This is my inaugrual entry reflecting on CFL. I suspect most Catholics have never heard of this exhortation nor know what the Latin means ("the lay members of Christ's faithful people"). Yet, clearly the mission and vocation of the laity is important. As the very first sentence of CFL mentions, it was the subject of an entire Synod of Bishops. But how many of us have seen this conversation of the Bishops reflected in our local parishes and dioceses? I remember asking a priest once why many don't make the laity aware of a document that is about us and our identity. I got the weak response that the pope's documents are "too difficult" for most Catholics. I don't buy it. Even if it were true, all that means is a teaching moment has presented itself.

As he does in most of his writings, JPII begins with a biblical story that will serve as a lens through which to examine the character of the laity. For CFL, he tackles Matthew 20:1-7. Given it's importance it is worth quoting here:

The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.' So they went off. (And) he went out again around noon, and around three o'clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o'clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' They answered, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard.'

I love this passage. All of God's people are called to spread the Gospel. I think many of the laity find themselves in the shoes of the five o'clockers -- standing around, not realizing that through our baptism we too have been given personally a part in the evangelization of the world. Unfortunately, many of us don't have someone coming by and reminding us of our call, or that it doesn't matter whether we have fifty years or just five left in this earthly pilgrimage; it's never too late to start.

If we had any doubt about the field of battle, JPII makes it clear it is the whole world: "The vineyard is the whole world which is to be transformed according to the plan of God in view of the final coming of the Kingdom of God." Awesome, isn't it? (I am certain that Veritas agrees.) Where I think most of us struggle is in envisioning what this looks like for the ordinary places of life. The apostolate of a Christian radio broadcaster? I can get my hands around the contours of that. The apostolate of someone in their capacity as a corporate lawyer? Hmm, there it gets tricky. But JPII clearly sees Christ working there too, even if it is in different ways or more interiorly than in other arenas. The difficulty (and the problems it causes) isn't lost on JPII as he recognizes the danger to which many of us succumb:
[T]wo temptations can be cited which [the lay faithful] have not always known how to avoid: the temptation of being so strongly interested in Church services and tasks that some fail to become actively engaged in their responsibilities in the professional, social, cultural and political world; and the temptation of legitimizing the unwarranted separation of faith from life, that is, a separation of the Gospel's acceptance from the actual living of the Gospel in various situations in the world.
How true. Like with the landowner who went back into the field, though, this is unacceptable to JPII: there is too much work to be done for the laity to remain idle.

Coming Soon: Reflections on Paragraphs 4 through 7 of CFL

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