Tuesday, May 28, 2002

The Laity's Co-responsibility For The Church's Mission: An Introduction

Reflections on CFL: Paragraphs 32

We have reached Chapter Three of CFL. Previous chapters focused on the dignity of the lay faithful and their paticipation in the Church's communion. Now the pontiff turns his attention to the lay faithful's participation in the Church's mission.

"We return to the biblical image of the vine and the branches ... Engrafted to the vine and brought to life, the branches are expected to bear fruit." This is not an option, but an "essential demand of life in Christ and life in the Church. The person who does not bear fruit does not remain in communion."

Thus, our participation in the Church's communion and mission are intertwined. They are "profoundly connected with each other, they interpenetrate and mutually imply each other to the point that communion represents both the source and the fruit of mission: communion gives rise to mission and mission is accomplished in communion." This is an important point. I think many of us are tempted to embrace one of these over the other. Some want that close union with God. Others passionately want to impact the world. We need to understand that we should embrace both.

What is the mission of the Church? The pope quotes St. John for that:

"That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ."
Again, the interrelationship of the mission and communion. If we don't take the time to understand and strengthen our communion, we hurt the chances of the mission.

JPII tells us that "the Lord entrusts a great part of the responsibility [of the Church's mission] to the lay faithful, in communion with all other members of the People of God." For me, this is a point that I need hammered home every day. (Some of our clergy probably need that too.) It is too easy to see the mission as the domain of the clergy. But the clergy "were not established by Christ to undertake alone the entire saving mission of the Church towards the world, but ... it is their exalted office to be shepherds of the lay faithful and ... to recognize [their] services and charisms that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one heart."

In the coming reflections, we will take a closer look at how the laity proclaim and live out the Gospel, doing their part in carrying out the Church's mission.

Coming Soon: Reflections on Paragraphs 33 through 35 CFL

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