today's readings are Amos 7: 12-15 ; Psalm 85; Ephesians 1: 3-14; and Mk. 6: 7-13
Let’s begin with a question – which group of people here is the largest?
As you ponder your answer, I can tell you it’s a trick question – for the answer is you – all of you – and all of you have a special name: the laity. You may ask – what is laity? Well, the word laity finds its root in the Greek word laikos – which means, of the people. So what is the laity? You, the people.
I was a member of the laity for the first 32 years of my life. But that changed when I was ordained a deacon in January of 1991 and then a priest in May of 1991. That’s when I became a member of another group in the church – the clergy – the deacons, priests, bishops and yes, the Pope of the Church.
There’s a third group as well – the religious – particularly the women religious that we call Nuns or Sisters. And we have them here as part of our parish, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. And thank you, Sisters, for being part of our parish. We are the better for it.
While many people would have a good idea of the role of the clergy and the religious in the church and what we do, the question remains, as the laity, what is your role? What are you called to do, what are you expected to do?
St. Paul in our 2nd reading today tells us one of the things that the laity are expected to do – to be holy and blameless before God. Yes, that’s a quite the task – to be holy and blameless. But in case you are wondering, this also applies to the clergy and religious.
Here’s another thought for you as members of the laity:
The laity share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own role to play in the mission of the whole People of God in the Church and in the world. They exercise a genuine apostolate by their activity on behalf of bringing the gospel and holiness to men, and on behalf of penetrating and perfecting the temporal sphere of things through the spirit of the Gospel.
Vatican II, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity,
1965: paragraph 2.
In our readings today we have examples of lay people in action – the prophet Amos in our first reading, and the 12 apostles in our gospel. Let’s first consider their backgrounds in terms of what they were called to be.
Amos, as we heard in our 1st reading had been a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees. He never went to prophecy school. But God called just as he was. Next, consider the 12 apostles who are sent in today’s gospel. Some were fishermen, one a tax collector, one a political activist, and one a thief. None of them had the theological training to do what Jesus would ask of them. In fact, as Jesus tells them in today’s gospel, they didn’t need much. He tells them, “Don’t worry, to do the work I want you to do, just bring your faith, your belief that they were called, and the Word of God. You’ll be fine!” And as it turned out, they do just fine. And they particularly did so later on when Jesus commissioned them to build the early church communities. They did a brilliant job.
Now you many be thinking, okay fine, but that was them. I’m different. No you’re not. You can do much, even in the most ordinary, everyday circumstances of your life. How can you do so? By putting into practice the Little way set forth by St. Therese of Lisieux: Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love. Doing the little ordinary things of life with love and faith and kindness – you are called do so, and you can do so -even in the simplest moments of your daily lives. When you do that, what a difference you will make.
In fact, there are a countess number of things you can do in your role as a layperson of the church. Like imitating the example of St. Therese, making a difference in the day to day events of your lives. Like recognizing and nurturing and sharing your God given talents with others, with your family, your community, your parish. God has blessed all of you. And God wants to work with all of you. And God’s church needs you! Your parish community needs you. Yes, you!