An analysis of the baptized Catholic lay person is a four week trip. The four weeks of letters have the following titles.
II. The Catholic lay person in the Church.
III. The Catholic lay person in the world.
IV. The Catholic lay person’s role in changing the
There is so much going on in the Church right now that it can be helpful to know where the lay person stands in the Church and what God wants and calls him/her to do in the world. Our house has to be built on rock. If we are building it, or have built it, on sand, it is going to get flooded, fall apart and get swept away (Mt. 7:24-27) by the rains, hurricanes and earthquakes that occur these days. Obviously you don’t desire (e.g. will) this to occur, but if you don’t have a good understanding of the truth, (e.g., intellect), you may be vulnerable to the confusion that is occurring and run the risk of building on sand.
That, we certainly do not want. So let’s take a shot at presenting and understanding the position of the lay person in the Church and the role that he/she has the world.
The Catholic lay person is called by the Blessed Trinity to co-redeem with Jesus. The person is given the vocation in Baptism by our Father God to apply Jesus’ Redemption to the world by living Christ’s life, through and with his Holy Spirit, in order to sanctify and re-configure creation in Christ. God gives this vocation—a calling which begins in Baptism and continues until the end of the lay person’s life—so that the person will become God’s instrument with a major role to sanctify the world.
To engage in this endeavor and to bring it to a fruitful fullness, the Catholic lay person, (hereafter called the “lay person”) will benefit substantially by acquiring and implementing a spirituality that does not come from the top down, from one or more organizations in the Church, but it comes from the ground up, from the very world which the person must sanctify. This is the world that was created in Jesus before Adam’s original sin. The world that God looked upon and “saw that it was good.” (Gen., Ch 1) The lay person needs to acquire, and continually obtain more of this vision that God-man held when He walked the earth and now holds at the right side of his Father in heaven.
The sin of Adam, the first human being and the quasi-father of the human race, (Christ was actually the progenitor of the human race.) disfigured the world and broke man off from the intimate union he possessed with God. This made man a slave to the devil. But this break by the original progenitor of man could be redeeemed and reconfigured by Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, in whom the world was initially created. He took on a human nature and became fully human in that nature, while at he same time having a divine nature and remaining divine in his person. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity was incarnated in Blessed Mary by the Holy Spirit.
Once He became man, every one of his acts as the God-man were intrinsically ordered to the Redemption. Every thing Jesus did on earth was related directly to the Redemption that occurred in his passion and death and resurrection. We may recall that one breath of the God-man was enough to redeem us. But the Trinity wanted to give us the divinized human way of living on the earth in order to show us the way to fulfill the task of co-redeeming and sanctifying the world in and through Christ. This is the responsibility of every baptised Catholic, but in different ways, and the lay person is to be the front-runner of the sanctifying and re-configuring of the redeemed world.
We stated that the best spirituality for the lay person is from the ground up, not something applied from outside or above. Hence what does the lay person do? A bit of investigation will show that the lay person lives an ordinary life in the world, a daily ordinary life that consists of professional work, taking care of family members, having friendships of many kinds and degrees, having good social relations and community responsibilities.
This is precisely what Jesus did in the thirty years before his public life. Have you ever wondered why he did this? One can come up with several reasons but the primary one is that which we are presenting here. From the ordinary life that Jesus lived and sanctified for thirty years we can find a spirituality that has all of the ingredients of the fruitful lay life in the world. We can rejoice in seeing that our task is to imitate Jesus there. Perhaps the difference is that we are choosing the thirty years of his life that are called traditionally the “hidden years.” This might surprise you. But it should not, since we can find that Jesus, as God and additionally as man, is present in different ways that are “hidden.” The Blessed Eucharist is one obvious example, but there are several others.
So the lay person is called to imitate Jesus in his first thirty years. What do we look to? His ordinary life. What did he do? He worked, lived family life, had friendships and some community responsibilities. Now Jesus is both perfect God and perfect man. If we want to find points and principles of how his humanity was lived, all we need to do is to go to the Gospels. St. Mark quotes the people in saying, “He did all things well.” (Mark 7:37). Of course this is true. He was God-man who had no sin and so his ordinary life would be lived with his human-(divine) love for his Father God and for his fellow humankind.
With respect to us, we could say that Jesus lived his life on earth for two objectives: to redeem us and to reveal the love of God the Father to us. The fact of Jesus’ taking on of our humanity had to pertain to these two objectives.
* If you look closely you can see that, in addition to redeeming us, giving all baptised persons in the state of grace a share in his Redemption is a great gift and it depends upon our faith and our freedom. This relates to the first objective.
* Then giving the lay person the task of helping Him to apply the Redemption to the world by becoming another Christ and Christ himself enables the lay person to have and to radiate Christ to all persons and to be a primary instrument for the reconfiguration of the world in Christ. This relates to the second objective.
So our hope is to be able to understand and to show the greatness of the lay person’s calling, along with the immense responsibility that God gives him/her to help bring to fulfillment God the Father’s redemptive and salvific will.
Join me next week and feel free to share with a friend.
Yours in Christ,