The Vatican II document on the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity states that: “In the Church there is a diversity of ministry but a oneness of mission. Christ conferred on the Apostles and their successors the duty of teaching, sanctifying and ruling in His name and power. But the laity likewise share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the whole mission of the people of God in the Church and in the world.
The laity ought to exercise their apostolate by their activity directed to the evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel. Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, lives in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ.
Allow me to dwell on the two phrases I underscored namely: like leaven and with the ardor of the spirit of Christ.
First, “like leaven”. A leaven is like “yeast” to make dough rise. Another meaning is to be a pervasive influence that modifies something or transforms it for the better. As a leaven to the world, we are to work for the renewal of the temporal order by taking on the distinctive task of transformation according to Gospel values. We are to be positive influencers “in the world” and not to be “of the world” – the same world that is trying to redefine family life and even life itself.
Second, “with the ardor of the spirit of Christ”. Since Christ, sent by the Father, is the source and origin of the mission of the Church, the fruitfulness of the lay apostolate depends on the laity’s living union with Christ, in keeping with the Lord’s words in John 15:5 “He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing”. This life of intimate union with Christ is nourished by the Sacraments and Prayer. These are practiced by the faithful in such a way that correctly fulfilling their secular duties in the ordinary conditions of life, they do not separate themselves from their union with God.
Three important requirements I would like to propose:
We need to discover how the Spirit is calling Jesus’ disciples today and then move courageously in that direction. We need to listen to “what the Spirit says to the Churches” (Revelation 2:7) because he reminds us of the things Jesus required “if anyone wants to be my disciple”.
The first requirement is a life of personal holiness, especially in the area of sexual purity. This area is underestimated today in terms of its importance in spiritual growth or non-growth. We need to demonstrate that Jesus is Lord of our lives even in this most intimate and generally hidden area. Here the battle occurs everyday and the victory is difficult and challenging. We must live purity as a gift and as a charism
As Cardinal Leo Josef Suenens once said about the renewal, when a light is turned on at night, there is always the risk of attracting flying insects. There are many flying insects today around us. They can do a great deal of harm to the work of the Spirit, especially if they are not acting in good faith.
The second requirement is humility. This is the humility that resists the temptation to take over God’s work and to always want to be in the place where the action of the Holy Spirit is most evident. It is a humility that understands service to mean at the service of the community. It is a humility that makes others avoid becoming attached to us, remembering that there is only one Master and that we are all brothers and sisters. It stands against the factions that plagued the Corinthian church and can plague Christian communities today: “I belong to Paul” or “I belong to Apollo” or “I belong to Cephas” (1 Corinthians 1:12).
The third requirement is brotherly love. It should be evident not only at home or at work but everywhere. It is not just any kind of love but the kind Paul speaks of in the context of the charisms. He describes this love as patient, kind, not jealous, not boastful. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
This kind of love is also a commitment to the poor, especially to those who are closest to Jesus’ heart and whom no one else cares for today; those who are oppressed with various kinds of slavery to sin and to the devil, the outcasts, the afflicted in spirit, those deprived of hope rather than of material goods.
Service to the Church is also part of this type of love: serving wherever it is requested or possible in parishes, in the works of the Church. This service extends not just to parish activities but to the truly spiritual works that concern the real life of the community: evangelization, catechesis, prayer, liturgical life and service to the poor. This service involves active participation in the mission of the Church.
Let us renew our community to give new life to the “dry bones” that are scattered around. Today our community must be like the lampstand on which the great light, the Holy Spirit, is placed, so that “it gives light to all in the house” (Matthew 5:15).
Above all, we aspire to have the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst because He Himself ⏤ in the Church as in the Trinity ⏤ is the bond of peace and the joy of communion.
It is necessary that the lay faithful should live and act in their temporal lives to create a synthesis between scientific, technical and professional elements on the one hand and spiritual values on the other. In the temporal activity, faith should be present as a beacon that gives light, and charity should be present as a force to give life.
In conclusion, every believer, ordained or lay, ought to be:
• a spark of light,
• a center of love,
• a vivifying leaven in society for bringing about true peace in the order established by God.
There can be no true peace among people unless there is peace in the heart of each person.
Let us altogether share in the oneness of the mission of Christ in the midst our diversity in ministry.
- Am I a leaven in society that transforms it for the better?
- How am I living my life of personal holiness?