Friday, April 29, 2016

Long live the Laity!

Back in July last year, I ruminated on the role of the Laity in the Church. (  ) My thesis then was to remind all churchmembers that their presence in the Church needs to be active and that they should rejoice in their activity as layfolk.

I want to take this further mainly because I want to convince the laity of the Church that they have everything to be proud of, and need to rid themselves of what appears to be an inferiority complex.

It is true that layfolk have been belittled in the past, and some still are to this day. I am a conservative in my religion but there are changes that I rejoice in, chiefly the end of feudalism. We now have managed to go to "your vote counts" from "your count votes" politically. In the UK, we still have a Constitutional Monarchy, but its role is limited and its appeal seems only to preserve the quaint and roman tically archaic rather than to curb the excesses of politicians who, it seems, prefer to make a career out of soundbites, jargon, and not really listening to the public.

There is a profound difference between being a member of the public and being a member of the Laity. The Laity are nothing less than the Kingdom of God itself. These are the folk who accept the rule of God as being insurmountably important, overriding the Crown, the Law, and the "Church", i.e. the political body that seeks to be the custodian of the social mores. The Laity are those who have accepted the Fatherhood of God, who believe in His Son, Jesus Christ and know the power and grace given by the Holy Ghost.

With the end of feudalism comes the end of clericalism, of an over-veneration of the priest as a political leader.

There is an old riddle which was told to me by an old friend on retreat. If, on your travels, you should happen upon a priest and an angel, to whom would you confess your sins? The answer, of course, is to the priest. The priest has been given authority by God to pronounce absolution, the angel has not. You might think that this is dreadfully pompous, a riddle created to build up the priesthood as some hierarchy with the power over souls, to be obeyed and fawned over, like tin gods. Yet, it isn't. It really isn't.

Why should you want to confess? Because you hate your sins.
Why do you hate your sins? Because they hurt you, degrade you and kill you?
Why do you confess to a priest? Because God has promised to absolve your sins through the priest?
Why do you want God's involvement? Because He can make you better?
Why should He care? Because He created you. He loves you. He does not want your hurt, degradation, or death.
How do I know that? Because God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Now look at the crucifix and say that you're not loved.

The priest is merely the conduit of God's grace. You, yes you!, are the reason for the existence of the priesthood. These priests exist for you. Tin-pot priests filled up with illusions of their own power of Sacrament and Excommunication are indeed effective distributors of God's grace, but their manner is an obstacle to any cherished layperson. They will receive the punishment of the money-changers who clogged up the temple of God so that those perceived as "unclean" might be kept out. The point is that each and every priest and bishop have in their possession direct channels of the grace of God through the Holy Sacraments for you.

It's easy to look at bishops in their fine robes and strange hats and think that they are commanding earthly power. They are not. They once thought they were, and this is why the Church is no longer the political power it once was. Either it has embrace the zeitgeist rather than the Helige Geist in order to keep its political role, or it has clung on to the traditions it has received and sought smallness in fidelity to the Unchanging Gospel.

And it's all for you. The Laity are the means by which this dark world is sanctified. The Laity possesses a priesthood of its own to bring to the foot of the Cross the horrors of this world. It is the Laity living out their faith day by day, hour by hour, that will bring about the glorious reality of the Kingdom of God on Earth.

The Laity are nothing less than the people of God, the inheritors of Light and the stars shining in Eternity. Often, the Laity think that they are just to sit in the pew while the priest and servers up the front do all the work. That's not true. Work needs to be done - that's why we have liturgy, the work of the laity. It is the laypersons duty to pray the words of the Mass with the priest. However, Mass is not all work, work, work, because by doing the work, rather than getting tired and worn out as you do doing your day job, you are restored for, if you’ve done your work well, you are met with Christ Himself offering you nourishment and rest in Him.

It takes a lifetime to learn the practice of how to be a good layperson. It can only come through prayer, bible-reading, the sacraments and putting into practice what we learn from them. Your priest should help guide you in that. If he doesn't, don't think it doesn't matter! Go out and find a good spiritual director. God will enrich your life abundantly if you do.

Yet, it must be remembered that the clergy are laymen too. They may be set apart by God for your service, but they too do the work of the laity too. The Church is all in this together. The whole concepts of importance, equality, diversity, discrimination, and law are ultimately meaningless for the Laity, because they are meaningless in Heaven with God. Each person is God’s person as He wants them to be, and our lives are lived trying to be that person finding that perfection in Him, through Him and with Him.

If we view the Church politically, then we are tempted to ascribe political terminology to it. We can accuse it of sexism, discrimination and homophobia because it appears to subscribe to political ideas. However, they can’t apply if the Church is honestly following the doctrine set by God Himself. Churchfolk fail at this, but the Church Herself doesn’t, but rather seeks to help all Churchfolk find their perfection in God by being members of the Church.

The Layperson will, of course, be alarmed by any accusations of unfairness or political incorrectness. That is understandable in someone whose mandate is to love God and then Neighbour. Yet, in following that doctrine, there is pain and suffering at the hands of the political agent seeking to reinforce that political power in place of God. Politics, too, shall pass. The end of the Layperson is in the hands of God who will mete out justice and mercy infinitely appropriately. The work of the Layperson will be tried by God’s fire and will be used for Good for all that love God. Concentrate on doing God's word; listen to the accusations critically and bring them to God so that, if true, you will know how to repent or, if false, you can carry on faithfully.

There is an infinite dignity in sitting in the pews at Mass. If you are a layperson, do not look down on your state just because you’re not robed or, “doing something useful”. You’re being something beyond useful, namely a child of God. Don’t let the temptation to do Church at home, or elsewhere on a Sunday. Come to Church and do your work and get paid. Then go out into the world to do God's work and get paid? Remember Who pays your wages, and how generous He is! Why? Because you, yes you!, are of infinite worth to Him forever.

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