Thursday, January 31, 2013

Shared Mission

Fifty years since Vatican II (1962-65), it is timely, first, to deepen understanding of the shared mission of all the Lord’s disciples, both the majority (lay) faithful and the minority (religious and clerical) faithful; second, to improve their co-responsibility and co-operation; third, to empower the laity especially through theological and professional formation.

In chapter 2, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church or Lumen Gentium (LG) affirms that there is basically one vocation and one mission for all the disciples, whether lay, consecrated, or ordained. 
By virtue of the sacrament of baptism, every disciple has both the right and responsibility to exercise the threefold ministry of prophet (proclaimer), priest (sanctifier) and king (policy-maker) within the Church and wider society.  Thus, the laity “in their own way share the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ and to the best of their ability carry on the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world” (LG 31). 
“Each of the faithful [has] the right and duty of exercising charisms in the Church and in the world for the good of humanity and the development of the Church, of exercising them in the freedom of the Holy Spirit who ‘breathes where It wills’ (John 3:8), and at the same time in communion with one’s brothers and sisters in Christ, and with one’s pastors especially” (Apostolate of the Laity 3).
“The lay faithful are not second class members [of the Church].  They share with all the baptized an equal Christian dignity.” (Second Plenary Council of the Philippines [PCP II], 405)  It is not their primary mission to be junior partners or participants in the apostolate of the minority faithful, the ordained and the consecrated members.
Co-responsibility among the majority and minority faithful are necessary for the work of integral evangelization in which the whole Gospel is offered to whole persons with their religious, cultural, political and economic aspects.  Both the clergy and the religious worldwide cannot offer enough energy and expertise to evangelize all the vast fields of economics, politics, and cultures.
The whole Church needs competent and committed laity (and even competent and benevolent non-believers) to engage with the world:

“Nowadays when things change so rapidly and thought patterns differ so widely, the Church needs to step up this exchange [with different cultures] by calling upon the help of people who are living in the world, who are expert in its organizations and its forms of training, and who understand its mentality, in the case of believers and nonbelievers alike” (Church in the Modern World 44).
Engagement with the world is what the laity do in their day-to-day lives.  Thus, the laity have a “secular character,” as “they are engaged in each and every work and business of the earth and in the ordinary circumstances of social and family life” (LG 31). 
The laity are secular, not because their activities are outside of or in opposition to the action of the Holy Spirit.  “The secular character of the laity does not make them ‘worldly’ or keep them from the sacred activities of the mission of the Church” (Aurelie Hagstrom).  They are secular because much of their day-to-day practices and affairs are outside of the control or administration of the hierarchy. 
More importantly, the laity are secular because they are “immediately and most numerously seen as the presence of the Church in the world” (PCP II, 423), and they are called to “contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven” (LG 31), especially in multireligious, multicultural, or pluralistic contexts.  In such contexts, the explicit proclamation of the faith has to be done wisely and during opportune times so that faith expressions would not be like “pearls (thrown) to pigs” (Matthew 7:6) which might provoke unnecessary scorn or violence.
Integral evangelization entails the active participation and co-leadership of lay persons, as their “field of evangelizing activity is the vast and complicated world of politics, economics…the world of culture, the sciences and the arts, international life and the mass media.  It also includes… human love, the family, the education of children and adolescents, professional work and suffering.” (Evangelization in the Modern World 70)

The active participation of the majority faithful becomes more urgent owing to these signs of the times: the ageing of the clergy and their steadily diminishing numbers in the older churches of Europe and North America, the globalization of information and, with increasing access of masses of people to means of interactive communication, increasing discontent with one-way communication, authoritarianism, and elitism globally.