Year of the laity

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By Arnold Van Vugt

The Living Spirit

Saturday, March 1, 2014


POPE Francis has declared 2014 as the Year of the Laity.

His intention is that the lay people in the Church reflect on their status of being called the laity. The word laity comes from the Greek word laicos, which means people, ordinary people. The laity in the Church is distinct from the clergy, the priests and the bishops.

In the 1st century of the Church there was no such a distinction. The members of the Church were all called the People of God, the Body of Christ, who were redeemed by the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. St. Luke in his gospel (Lk. 4:16-20) relates to us the passage in the Bible where Jesus announces what his mission in the world is: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, freedom to the captives, and to announce the Year of the Lord.” This is the mission that Christ has given to the people when He founded his Church. The People of God are to continue his mission in the world. The problem is that in the history of the Church this role of continuing the mission of Christ has almost exclusively been appropriated by the clergy.

During this Year of the Laity we, the ordinary People of God must resume again the role given to us by Christ, to continue his mission. And that is: to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, freedom to the captives. We must not understand this only in the spiritual sense but literally: to give to the poor who are in need, to give prophetic witness to our neighbors who are blinded by their egoism and selfishness, to liberate our fellowmen from the obsession of making profits at the expense of others. The BCC or BEC is the normal channel where we have to put into practice all this.

I remember, in September of last year we celebrated the silver jubilee of Lay Forum Philippines (LFP), a national organization of lay people who held their national assembly in Antipolo City. Eighty delegates from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao were together and reflected for 4 days on their role as lay people in the Church. The theme of that assembly was: “Discerning the Laity’s Participation in Church Renewal and Social Transformation in the Light of Vatican II toward the 5th Century of Christian Faith in the Philippines.” It was a beautiful experience for all of us delegates. We ended the assembly with this prayer: “Lord, make us instruments of your presence in our nation. Where there is coercion and violence, let us sow seeds of love and peace; where there is bribery, let us sow seeds of integrity; where there is duplicity, let us sow seeds of truth; where there is indifference and passivity, let us sow seeds of care and compassion; where there is despair in nation’s crisis, let us sow seeds of hope. Compassionate God, install in us a deep sense of communal solidarity with the poor as we journey toward becoming Church of the Poor. For it is in communal action that we receive life-giving blessings. And it is in dying for love, justice and peace that we are born to fullness of life.” This prayer sums up what real laity is all about.

Incidentally, this week me and my wife went to the office of the National Food Authority to renew the license for receiving NFA rice for distribution in our parish in Calaanan. We talked to the manager of the NFA who told us that he had “organized” in his office the personnel of more than 40 people into a kind of basic Christian community. Every day they come together in his office at 3 o’clock in the afternoon for a prayer and all his employees meet regularly in order to discuss the correct implementation of their task and to fulfill their individual duties in the service of the people. We talked to several of them and you could sense their sincerity.

In going home we passed by an office of a notary public to have some papers notarized. The lawyer whom I didn’t know before said that he was often reading my column in Sun.Star. He did not want to receive a single centavo for his service. That is real generosity. As lay people in the Church we must continue Jesus’ mission by practicing real Christian values in our daily activities.

***

You can email Arnold Van Vugt at nolvanvugt@gmail.com.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 02, 2014.

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