Reflections on Lumen Gentium, Part 35

35. Christ, the great Prophet, who proclaimed the Kingdom of His Father both by the testimony of His life and the power of His words, continually fulfills His prophetic office until the complete manifestation of glory. He does this not only through the hierarchy who teach in His name and with His authority, but also through the laity whom He made His witnesses and to whom He gave understanding of the faith (sensu fidei) and an attractiveness in speech(200) so that the power of the Gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life. They conduct themselves as children of the promise, and thus strong in faith and in hope they make the most of the present,(201) and with patience await the glory that is to come.(202) Let them not, then, hide this hope in the depths of their hearts, but even in the program of their secular life let them express it by a continual conversion and by wrestling “against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness.(203)

Just as the sacraments of the New Law, by which the life and the apostolate of the faithful are nourished, prefigure a new heaven and a new earth,(204) so too the laity go forth as powerful proclaimers of a faith in things to be hoped for,(205) when they courageously join to their profession of faith a life springing from faith. This evangelization, that is, this announcing of Christ by a living testimony as well as by the spoken word, takes on a specific quality and a special force in that it is carried out in the ordinary surroundings of the world.

In connection with the prophetic function is that state of life which is sanctified by a special sacrament obviously of great importance, namely, married and family life. For where Christianity pervades the entire mode of family life, and gradually transforms it, one will find there both the practice and an excellent school of the lay apostolate. In such a home husbands and wives find their proper vocation in being witnesses of the faith and love of Christ to one another and to their children. The Christian family loudly proclaims both the present virtues of the Kingdom of God and the hope of a blessed life to come. Thus by its example and its witness it accuses the world of sin and enlightens those who seek the truth.

Consequently, even when preoccupied with temporal cares, the laity can and must perform a work of great value for the evangelization of the world. For even if some of them have to fulfill their religious duties on their own, when there are no sacred ministers or in times of persecution; and even if many of them devote all their energies to apostolic work; still it remains for each one of them to cooperate in the external spread and the dynamic growth of the Kingdom of Christ in the world. Therefore, let the laity devotedly strive to acquire a more profound grasp of revealed truth, and let them insistently beg of God the gift of wisdom.

200 Cf. Acts 2:17-18; Rev. 19:10.

201 Cf. Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5.

202 Cf. Rom. 8:25.

203 Eph. 6:12

204 Cf. Rev. 21:1.

205 Cf. Heb. 11:1

 

Christ fulfills His prophetic office, not only through ordained ministers of the Church, but through the lives of the laity, lived out in the ordinary circumstances of daily life. The laity are “children of the promise” whose lives more closely reflect the concerns of the secular world and, as such, speak with greater credibility and integrity to those many who live in the secular world, but who do not share in the promises of Jesus. It is to these that the lay faithful witness, proclaiming the Gospel more through their lives well-lived than through words.

This holds true to a greater degree in marriage and family life than anywhere else, for it is in the Christian home that Christian husbands/fathers and Christian wives/mothers daily testify to the promises of Jesus and the glory that awaits them to each other and to their children. The home is the first Christian school, where children learn the truths of the faith, the prayers of the Church, and the promises of Jesus, as well as the moral law given by God for the attainment of righteousness and true happiness.

There have been times throughout the Church’s history when, for various reasons, either because of a lack of ordained clergy or because of a failure of faithful leadership, the laity have had to step up and take primary responsibility for witnessing to Christ and the truths of His Church. Such a time may be now, when the crisis of clerical abuse has sullied the reputation of the Church and caused many to question the validity of her teaching. More than ever, it is the lay faithful who must testify to the Gospel and rebuild the Church with their prayers and acts of faith, hope, and love. When the shepherds have too often squandered their responsibilities, the sheep must remain united under the shepherding of God Himself. This is why, in these times especially, the laity cannot leave it to the clergy alone to proclaim the Gospel. The laity must share the mantle of didache, catechesis and evangelization, never apart from the clergy, but in unity and shared responsibility with those clergy who desire nothing more than to speak the truth with passion and without compromise.

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

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