Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Christian's Job Description:To Pay, Pray and Obey, or Work in The Vineyard?

In 1989, Pope John Paul II published a post synodal Apostolic exhortation called "Christifideles Laici" or "Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful".

While written specifically to Roman Catholics, the mission to which we are called is the same for all Christians. In fact, thje term Pntifex Maximus is not so much of a title for the Pope, but rather a description of the Pope's job, to serve as a Bridge (from the latin {Pontifex)between Christ and all people in the world. It is a descriptioon not of an authority to RULE, but an authority to TEACH and SERVE. Maximus implies that his teaching authority is bestowed by Jesus Christ Himself.

All too often in the church, when we hear the term "Vocation" bandied about we think in terms of the Priests, Deacons and religious orders. Or we let the secular interpretation creep in and think "career". In reality, it means "a calling" as the Latin "Vocare" implies. Each one of us as a Christian is called to a full life within the church, to a share ion the kingship and priesthood of Jesus Christ. We are called to evangelize, which means tro announce the great Good News of jesus chriost to a hurting and lost world, with a view toward the eternal salvation of sould, to be sure, but also to live toi the fullest in the fullness of truth in this life through the Holy Spirit.

However, given the number of fallen away Catholics, and those who just come to Church, drop a few dollars in the collection plate, receive the Holy Eucharist and then go home and forget about it until next Sunday, we need to acknowledge that there is a crisis in the church. It is a crisis not solely the making of the bishops and priests, but of the who;le church, and that means each pone of us. All too often we just show up and leave everything else to the priests , deacons and religious, when they need our help. In fact it is our vocation to be that help, as the hands and feet of Christ on earth. Each one of us must know the Word of God, and liove it with a passion and seriousness that will make others pay attention.

Let's take a look at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka the Mormons, who are the fastest growing denomination or sect in the world. Whether we like it or not, it is true. We need to ask why, and having researched Mormonism myself, though I found it wanting theologically, they have succeeded because they have heeded the call the Church has made on their lives.

The LDS Church demands a call to Holiness on the lives of each believer, and most have answered it. They hold themselves to the highest standard in terms of integrity,work ethic, morality, respecting their bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit, and providing for the brethren in need. We have, at least in the west , as Catholics, (generally speaking) fallen into a pattern of laziness. We have bought into the materialism, hedonism and minimalism of the western world, and sadly many of us have become indistinguishable from the world.

If you look at the divorce rates among Catholics and Christians and compare it to the general population, or contraceptive use, cohabitation, eating and drinking habits, drug use, and even abortion, you will find very little difference between the numbers among us and those outside the Church. We watch the same worldly movies and TV shows, read the same worldly books, and perhaps worst of all, listen to the same music. As motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, a Christian and pro-family advocate has pointed out using the analogy of a computer: "Garbage In = Garbage Out". So our responsibility if we are going to preach the Gospel to the world in word and deed is to start a diet of good quality , Godly intellectual, spiritual and temporal food, and start treating our minds and bodies as the temple of the Holy spirit which they are. None of us who have the ability would allow our children to reside in a rat and sewage infested dump, so why should we allow anything but the best for the Holy Spirit who sustains us? We need to haul out the trash that does not point toward God, and replace it with good things that do.

The only way we are going to impact the culture, which ultimately must be done, is by rejecting the evil. In Our baptismal promises we promise to turn our backs on the devil and his empty promises, so why do we listen to the blasphemies of Lady Gaga and Niki Minaj, when there is uplifting music out there? Why do we read semi pornographic novels when we have good quality literature available to us that challenges the mind and spirit to do better? Why do we accept divorce as an option? Why do we just do the minimum to get by with our work and our families, instead of working as if we were working for Christ Himself, which we are?
This is what the Mormons seem to have grasped, and as a result, they are having an enormous impact on the world who see their example. In fact, if current trends continue the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will have 265 million members by 2080.

If one looks back at history, we can see another group of people who changed the world through their example. through their display of the same attributes the Mormons are renowned for. Integrity, work ethic, clean living, compassion for the poor and a zeal for missions. These people were the Catholic Church. It was Catholics who built the first hospitals. Catholics built universities. Catholics, by their example, civilized a pagan empire. Catholics sustained civilization after that empire collapsed, and led the way in the renaissance, creating the finest art, music and literature ever created.... And they still do, though not in proportion to their numbers. This is the heritage we need to reclaim, and it can only be done if each Catholic lives up to their calling in the faith, by knowing and living the teachings of the church and rejecting evil, and by offering themselves back to the Lord in terms of service according to the gifts they have been given by the Holy Spirit as part of the Body of Christ, and most importantly, through the Eucharist, our food for the journey, where we actually receive the body and blood of Christ to sustain us through our mission.

The same call to holiness and mission that the Mormons have responded to is also on each individual Catholic. It is summed up in one of my favourite verses of the old testament forund in Micah 6:8 "He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?" (NKJV)

That will get the attention of a hurting pagan world that is looking for answers, which the church gives us, but sadly all too many of us hide under a bushel. Only through knowing the teachings of the church which fully inform us of who we are and WHOSE we are can we function to the God given abilities to which each of us are called.

Each of us needs to ask of themselves, if we were accused of being Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us? We need to go a step further. If we were convicted, would we be let off with a slap on the wrist, or receive the maximum sentence?

That , in a nutshell, is the mission of the laity. No one is exempt. When You call on Jesus Christ as your Saviour, you are forever changed, You receive the gift of eternal life, and are charged with the task of taking up your cross daily, and sharing that gift with others, so they may have the fullness of truth, life in its abundance, and Christ through eternity.

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