The Laity are Leaven
SATURDAY, Easter week four: April 23, 2016
The Responsorial Psalm promises: “All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God” (Psalm 98). The readings take on special meaning if we understand “ends of the earth” to mean, not just countries, but in every country all areas of life and activity: family and social life, business and politics. When and how will the “saving power of God” be seen in all of these areas? And when it is, will not the prophetic words of the Church’s prayer be realized: “Send forth your Spirit and our hearts will be regenerated. And you will renew the face of the earth!”
In Acts 13: 44-52 we see God using the very opposition of his enemies to accomplish his purposes. This is a pattern in the Gospels, most evident in the triumph of Jesus through his death and defeat on the cross (see Matthew 2:23; 4:12-16; Acts 11:19). In this reading the Apostles saw that, when the Jews in Antioch rejected their preaching, this opened another door: “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it… we are now turning to the Gentiles…. so that we may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”
In the Church of our day vocations to the priesthood and religious life have declined. But ittakes only a little prophetic insight to recognize how God is using this to raise up the laity and animate them to live out their baptismal consecration by full participation in the ministry and apostolate of the Church.
Through the full participation of the laity in the Church’s mission, the reign of God will be established in all those areas the clergy can never reach: business, politics, family and social life. Vatican II says that this is where the laity are by vocation:
They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God… for the sanctification of the world from within, in the manner of leaven. (Church, #31).
For those who feel unworthy to exercise ministry and leadership in the Church Jesus tells Philip in John 14: 7-14 that just as the Father is working in Jesus, Jesus will be working in his followers: “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these.” As the Father is “glorified in the Son” so the Son is glorified in the members of his body. “Whoever has seen me [Jesus] has seen the Father.” And whoever has seen the graced members of the Church, clergy or laity, in action has seen the Church and Jesus. It is the function of the prophets to assure this “by the witness of a life resplendent in faith, hope and love” (ibid.) so that “all the ends of the earth may see the saving power of God.”
Initiative: Be a prophet. Take Christ’s truth with you wherever you go. Live it.