In the Gospel for the seventh Sunday of Easter (Jn 17: 11,b-19), Jesus prays for his apostles, “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one … Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world” (Jn 17: 11,17-18). Soon after Pentecost, Peter arose and addressed the assembly of 120 persons. He mentioned Judas who betrayed Jesus and committed suicide.
“Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who had accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the Baptism of John until the day he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to the resurrection.” (Acts 2:16-22) They prayed and cast lots and the winner was Matthias who was counted as an apostle with the other eleven.
In our time, Jesus, through the church, calls the laity to be involved in his mission. His farewell words just before his Ascension apply today to all the faithful. On the Mount of the Ascension, he called the Apostles and all the hundreds of millions of Christians up to the present time to live and spread the Gospel. “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. And behold I am with you always to the end of the age” (Mt 28:19-20).
The church repeats Christ’s expansive challenge today. Note especially Vatican II’s document on the pastoral mission of the church (Gaudium et Spes). The Vatican Council fathers urge the laity to “come of age” in the church, The laity should accept this call to ministry and share in the church’s pastoral mission. Some may be called to ordained ministries: pope, bishop, priest, deacon.
Most will be called to Christian marriage and the nurture of a family. Or others will choose to live the single life as a lay person. Thousands of women have responded to Christ’s appeal to be a woman religious. A number of men have become members of the Christian Brothers and similar congregations.
Jesus summons people to share in his prophetic ministry.
The Catechism puts it this way: “Christ … fulfills this prophetic office, not only by the hierarchy … but also by the laity. He establishes them with the sense of faith and the grace of the word. To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and each believer.
Lay people also fulfill their prophetic mission by evangelization, that is, the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of their lives. For lay people, this evangelization is unique because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world. The true apostle is on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers…or to the faithful” (Catechism, 902-3).
Norbertine Fr. McBride is a popular lecturer and author of more than 40 books.