Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Sharers In The Priestly, Prophetic And Kingly Mission Of Jesus Christ

Reflections on CFL: Paragraph 14

Here JPII introduces us to a principle that may surprise some people: Like the clergy and religious brothers and sisters, the laity participate in the threefold mission of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King. It isn't really new; the pope has said throughout that the laity are called to spread the Gospel too. But it is the way in which it is presented here -- tying it directly to Christ's mission and as Priest, Prophet and King -- that may cause some to take a second look. To me, it helps drive home in a new way the fact that "Christ, ... in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, makes man fully manifest to himself and brings to light his exalted vocation". His mission tells us something about ourselves too.

The Priestly Mission. "Incorporated in Jesus Christ, the baptized are united to him and to his sacrifice in the offering they make of themselves and their daily activities." Quoting the Second Vatican Council, the pope writes:

For their work, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily labor, their mental and physical relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life if patiently borne—all of these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. During the celebration of the Eucharist these sacrifices are most lovingly offered to the Father along with the Lord's body. Thus as worshipers whose every deed is holy, the lay faithful consecrate the world itself to God."
Most of us forget this. Especially when it comes to the little daily trials or suffering. United with Christ, it can become redemptive. I remember a priest who lamented that the collection at mass often comes off as something extraneous and not part of the liturgy itself. Maybe if it weren't money -- but the products we produced with our labor -- and weren't set off to the side -- but placed right at the altar -- we might recognize it as both the symbolic and real embodiment of this idea.

The Prophetic Mission. "Through their participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, ... 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 identify and denounce evil." Yes, to identify and denounce evil. Boy, is that taboo in our society. As the front line of the Church, though, we must. For ourselves, so we do not begin to forget the difference between good and evil. For others, so they might come to understand the difference and choose the good. If we don't, we set up our clergy and religious for failure: their special status makes it easy for some to dismiss them and their teachings. Our participation makes that more difficult. We can do that with more than just our words by allowing "the newness and the power of the Gospel to shine out everyday in their family and social life" and expressing even "through the framework of ... secular life" our "hope of future glory."

The Kingly Mission. "They exercise their kingship as Christians, above all in the spiritual combat in which they seek to overcome in themselves the kingdom of sin, and then to make a gift of themselves so as to serve, in justice and in charity, Jesus who is himself present in all his brothers and sisters, above all in the very least." Man, this pope is good. Doesn't let us get too far away from seeing the beam in our own eye, does he? It is more than about combating pride here. Although perfection isn't required for us to live out the Gospel, a desire to grow in holiness each day is important. People watch us. They make judgments and learn from us without us knowing. And that darn thing about being all one body, hmm...

"[T]he lay faithful are called to restore to creation all its original value." Read that one over a couple of times. It's appearance is deceptive; the phrase is packed full of meaning. If your like me, as the words all its original value start to sink in, you are starting to feel the burden of a task that is beyond you. And it is. If you are acting alone. Remember, though, we are participating in the threefold mission of Christ. "Precisely because it derives from Church communion, the sharing of the lay faithful in the threefold mission of Christ requires that it be lived and realized in communion and for the increase of the communion itself."

Where does the pope say the laity's participation in this mission finds its "dynamic sustenance"? The Holy Eucharist, of course.

More on the mystery of the Church's communion in Paragraph 18.

Next Post: Reflections on Paragraph 15 of CFL


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