Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 20, 2003
Bless your own world with joy
Modern life's freedoms make way for true discipleship
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
In one of my recent musings, I explored the call that Christ has put to the Church to go out to the whole world to bring good news of salvation. This call has been repeated by the popes and our bishops and also by the Second Vatican Council.
Some may still be of the mind that the responsibility to bring the Gospel to people falls on the shoulders of the priests and the members of religious orders.
When I was growing up, the presence and influence of the priests and religious was all encompassing. We lived in another world. Every little town or village had its priest and many had a convent full of nuns who would teach most of the catechism in school and facilitate the various religious exercises in the parish.
Daily Mass was the norm for many people, especially for those who lived in the villages and towns and who had easy access to the church.
It was an approach that worked well. The churches were full. Few Catholic families failed to attend mass. The clergy had a great influence on us as did also the sisters.
Every year, the priest would do the "parish visit" - blessing our homes and collecting the tithing for the Church. Colleges, minor seminaries and convents were full of young Catholics attending these institutions in order to receive a "better formation," both religious and academic.
But our world has changed considerably in the past generation or two. It has ceased to be the simple agriculture-based society of old. It's become a progressive, secular society basking in modernity. Communications have brought about an incredible revolution.
The media have transformed our society. People have become emancipated from the thinking of the past and have been experiencing the blessings of prosperity and the many new opportunities it provides.
One important change are the smaller families. No longer does one see families of fourteen children which was the size of my family. College and university education is readily available for all.
So with the passing of time , the Church has experienced a major revolution because society has been transformed and also because of the revolution and new vision brought about by the Second Vatican Council. One of the major fruits of the council is the role that has been recognized for the baptized person. One is no longer expected to be a passive recipient of the teaching and ministry of the clergy. Through the grace of Baptism one is invited to become a minister in the world and in the Church.
One is called to live out the Gospel teaching but also to become a facilitator for Gospel values taking roots in one's family, but also in society at large.
The council has unleashed a sleeping giant: the baptized people which has created a revolution in the Church and in the world by opening the door wide to the participation of all in the ministry of spreading the Good News to all peoples, starting with the ones living under our own roof.
One cannot underestimate the influence of parents on their children. Parents' ministry begins at home. Children need to see the Christian life being modeled by their parents. Church practice is one thing, but daily living out the Gospel is a much broader call: teaching by modeling love, compassion, mutual forgiveness, respect of God and God's holy name, respect of neighbour, honesty in financial dealings and the pursuit of justice.
It is important for children to witness parents praying at home, before meals, at bedtime and in special circumstances. The unity of the family will find its deepest roots and expression through praying together. The old axiom "A family that prays together stays together: continues to have value for our generation.
The Christian people are also invited to minister outside the family and into society and places of work. One ministers not only by teaching or preaching but especially by being a good person: kind, honest, generous, respectful, involved in the pursuit of justice and the growth and development of peoples. Jesus gives us a bold challenge: "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends!"
We live in a world where the possibilities of helping (a good word for "ministering") are endless. It behooves all Christian persons worthy of the name to be people of hope, able to dream dreams and come up with creative solutions for the small and bigger challenges that modern society brings to our Christian faith and human values.
By joining forces with out neighbours the world becomes our parish , our family. What we can realize to make it a better place for all is limitless. It's also part of our call as true disciples of Jesus.
I know a man who having his fair share of struggles and burdens to carry has a way of lifting people's spirits by little jokes, wonderful little tidbits of good news that quickly put smiles on people's faces, sending them on their way with a new spring in their feet. In small ways, can't we all bring colour to our surroundings? Sure. Why not?
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.