Reflections on Lumen Gentium, Part 34

34. The supreme and eternal Priest, Christ Jesus, since he wills to continue his witness and service also through the laity, vivifies them in this Spirit and increasingly urges them on to every good and perfect work.

For besides intimately linking them to His life and His mission, He also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of all. For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all these become “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”.(199) Together with the offering of the Lord’s body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.

199 1 Pt. 2:5.

 

The work of a priest is to consecrate, to make holy. Thus, the priest offers sacrifice and, by doing so, sanctifies the elements of the sacrifice, those participating in the sacrifice, and those for whom the sacrifice is offered.

As laity, we often forget (or fail to appreciate in the first place) how much we participate in the priesthood of Christ. At Baptism, we are initiated into the ministry of Christ as priest, prophet, and king. Part of how we participate in His priesthood is through the Eucharist. This is why the Church properly speak of the laity “assisting” at Mass, rather than merely “attending.” Our obligation is not merely to attend Mass, but to assist at Mass. This is what the Council Fathers mean when they speak of the laity “sharing in [Christ’s] priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of all.” By assisting at Mass, we truly help the ordained priest offer the Eucharist as an offering for the salvation of all people. If nothing else, this ought to inspire us to pay a little more attention to what’s going on at Mass!

In Baptism and Confirmation, we are anointed by the Holy Spirit to produce good works that are then offered to God for the consecration of the world. The good works we produce in our marriages and family life (the formation of the man the woman as one in Christ, the raising of children in righteousness, etc …), the little sacrifices we offer up through the day (patience in traffic, fortitude in the face of the physical and emotional pains of life, forbearance in the face of frustrations at work, etc …), the joys we celebrate and the hardships with which we struggle — all of these are gifts consecrated, “carried out in the Spirit,” as “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). It is by means of the spiritual sacrifices that the laity “consecrate the world itself to God.”

This is an awesome responsibility, not to be taken lightly. I suppose priests have an easier time remembering that their lives are consecrated to the purpose of God’s kingdom. Each day they go to work at a parish or some other official ministry of the Church. Each day they wear clothing that announces to the world their having been set apart for the work of Christ and His Church. I suppose, conversely, they face the temptation of the ministry of Christ and His Church being reduced to the daily drudgery of the workplace, just as we laity so often experience our daily workplace responsibilities as drudgery more than as joy (even if we like our job!). But, we laity, whose lives more concretely resemble those dedicated wholly to the secular endeavors of life, can sometimes forget that we are set apart, too. However, the everyday, seemingly mundane activities of our family lives, our work lives, our leisure times are themselves opportunities to participate in the saving work of Christ. In this sense, there is no such thing as a mundane activity for the believer, for any activity, if offered up in the Spirit, can be transformed into a moment of grace, where the saving work of Christ takes place. Indeed, it is our responsibility as laity to transform these moments, to consecrate them toward the saving work of Christ. That is our mission and responsibility, as sure as it is the mission and responsibility of the ordained priest to preside at the Eucharist, to hear confessions, to baptize and bless. This is the work we do. It is the work of Christ. It is the work of salvation. We will answer to how dedicated to this work we were during the course of our lives lived under His grace by Baptism. By His grace, may He have reason to say to us each, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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