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Archive for July, 2013

Pray to the Lord of the Harvest (Part 2)

Jesus Calls His Disciples

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  (Matt. 36-38)

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In my previous article with this ttile, I mentioned that waves of spiritual darkness are enveloping this world and that we need not to despair but to understand that this is also a time of harvest that the Lord is using to separate the wheat from the chaff. The peoples of the world are feeling harassed and helpless spiritually, sensing the need for a Shepherd and Savior. As our Chief Shepherd, Jesus is telling us to Pray to the Father to send out workers (disciples) into the Harvest to proclaim to them the Good News of the Cross and the arrival of the Shepherd they have been seeking! To that end, we need to pray that the Lord help us to make more “lay disciples” to help in the Harvest, by bringing more disciples to the front lines, freely proclaiming the Good News of the Cross of Christ to the whole world.

I also tried to make it clear that one of the reasons we don’t have more “lay disciples” is because our modern religious culture has not adequately provided for the making of lay disciples and, instead, it (our modern religious culture) prefers to place the laity in a role as “stewards of time, talent, and treasure” to help maintain the religious infrastructure of the church, thus “placing the cart before the horse”. In one case, a high ranking clergyman responding to a question as to what exactly was the role of the laity in the church, responded by saying that the laity’s only roles were to : “pay, pray, and obey”.

In this second article I wish to point out that due to this tradition of lay disenfranchisement, most the laity do not even know that they are called to the same discipleship as the clergy, and, even worse, they are not even sure as to what true discipleship entails and how they may enter into such a calling. I have, in all my previous articles on this topic, tried to inform my readers, about just what discipleship entails and its cost to those who respond to the call.

In summarizing my position in this matter, I will first begin by telling you that discipleship is NOT a self-willed program where we enlist in a variety of religiously commandeered activities or efforts to do something for God and His people, the church. It is also NOT merely the scheduling ourselves to participate in pietistic devotions and scripted group prayers as if somehow, our attempts at establishing our own “holiness” will enhance our standing as “disciples”.

No, dear family of God, true discipleship is NOT our work! It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us to conform us to the image of the Son! As such it is a spiritual work accomplished by the Spirit in us, so that the Spirit of Christ that is in us may manifest itself through us to bring forth fruit for the Kingdom to the Glory of the Father! It is the process whereby the world is crucified to us and we to the world (Gal. 6:14). The end result being, that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us and through us! (Gal. 2:20)

Our only part in entering into true discipleship is cooperating with the Spirit through a decision of our will to surrender ALL of our selves to the Father and placing His will above ours in all that we do in our lives from that point on! When Jesus was asking His followers to follow Him, He was not asking them to perform works of religious piety – He was asking them to place themselves under the Reign of the Father, as He himself was, so that the Father Himself could use them (and us)  to manifest His Kingdom in this World for His Glory, not ours! That, of course, is what we are praying when we say, what we call the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matt. 6:9-13) but, is in fact, the “Disciple’s Prayer” of commitment and surrender to the Father’s Will. The sad part of this is that for today’s Christians the meaning of this prayer has been culturally obscured so that is merely repeated pietistically supposedly to honor the Father and ask for His sustenance and forgiveness.

No, it is more than that! It is a prayer of consecration where we are saying to the Father, that, in honoring Him as Creator and Father, we also recognize that, through His Sons’ Sacrifice on the Cross, we acknowledge that He has accepted us as His “children”, and therefore, because of faith in Him and His Love, we gratefully place our lives ENTIRELY under His Command (Kingdom) so that HIS WILL (and NOT ours) may be manifested on Earth as it is in Heaven!

The Apostle Paul similarly re-states what this entrance to “true discipleship” involves in his epistle to the Romans, where he states: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:1-2)

So, unless you have made such a serious and intentional consecration of your self to God the Father, so that you yield your will completely to His in all things in your life, you are NOT a true disciple of Christ. This level of consecration of self to the Father is what Jesus did at His baptism and if you are truly “following” Him, it is a consecration that you must make also. Understand however, that, this decision must flow out of your personal and intimate relationship with Jesus or it will NOT be considered sincere. Remember what Jesus told those who said to him that they had done many mighty works in His Name. He told them: “… depart from me you workers of iniquity I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23).  For a deep intimate relationship with our Lord and Master must, of necessity, be at the core of our discipleship or else we are just deceiving ourselves.

Francis accepts his call to Lay Discipleship

Francis accepts his call to Lay Discipleship

Now, this consecration is merely the point at which the Holy Spirit can begin the process of conforming you to the image of the Son. The spiritual transformation involved will encompass your entire lifetime! This transformation is NOT your work or your effort, it is only accomplished by the Spirit in you and through you as you immerse yourself in the Word of God and activate that Word in you by acting on it and speaking it. In this way you let the Word rule in your life to bring the transformation about!  All you need to do is cooperate through your obedience in Love to let “His Kingdom Come” into you and through you!

It must also be clear that every believer is called to make such a commitment but is NOT obliged to do so!  In order for your dedication to be truly an act of Agape Love, your choice must be totally free and you must be acutely aware about its cost in order to make that decision without coercion. Because of this freedom, your salvation is NOT contingent on what you choose. That is why the Lord told his disciples that “many are called (to be disciples) but few are chosen”. If you sense the call of the Lord in your spirit and respond to this call by consecrating yourself as a “living sacrifice” then you have been chosen if you respond positively to His Call.

This call to discipleship is for ALL believers NOT just the clergy or religious. Unfortunately, due to the current culture, the laity are often not taught this and, mainly for that reason, we do not have all the workers that are needed for the Harvest at hand!

Once you have made your consecration, the Holy Spirit begins His work in your life regardless of what your situation is: married or single, student or professional, male or female. etc. All that matters is that you dedicate yourself, through prayer and meditation on the WORD to hear what God is asking you to do and be obedient to His directives. He will be your teacher, your guide, your helper, and He will empower you to accomplish that which He has directed you to do, In His NAME! That is all that He is asking you to do! That is what true discipleship is about!

If the circumstances you are currently in appear to be an impediment to your decision, just remember Jesus’ exhortation to His disciples:

“ Seek first to place yourselves firmly in obedience to God’s Reign in your lives, seeking always His approval in all that you do. If you do this then all the circumstances in your lives will fall in to place for you as you carry out His commission.” ………………(my understanding of Matt: 6:33)

Also keep in mind Pauls’s exhortation to the Colossians:

“So, if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.”  (Col.3: 1-4)

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In order to inform the Body Of Christ as to the dire dearth of true lay discipleship and our need for  it, I am attaching to this writing with a paper written by a group of lay Catholics in a rural parish in Northern California, discussing the subject of lay discipleship. This paper summarizes the historical dissolution or diminishment of lay discipleship within the church over the centuries. The paper is presented by me in two separate posts. This being the second.

The first part dealt with the first thousand years of church history and this second part deals with the last thousand years. I will leave its message to your own discernment through prayer and meditation. And I pray that the Holy Spirit will work through what I am presenting to you to guide you in determining your response to the message.

But above all, pray that the Lord of Harvest will send forth workers into His fields!

May the Lord Bless you and Keep you. May the Lord be gracious to you and Shine His Face upon you and Bring you His Peace!

Your Brother in Christ and fellow pilgrim …. Bartimaeus

For Further Information on “Intentional Discipleship” please Click on:

1]  “Cast your Net on the Other Side

2] “Build your Spiritual House on The Rock”

3) “Prayer of Commitment”

4)  “Forming Lay Disciples”

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2013])

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The views presented in the following papers are those of the Issues Group and are not necessarily representative of the people of St. Aloysius Parish nor the Roman Catholic Church.

 (Copyright Pending; Elk Altar Society Inc., Elk, Ca.)

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Catholic Issues Series:  The Church Today

The Role of Clergy and Laity

Part II :  Cleric and Lay in the Second One Thousand Years of the Church

From the time of the Constantine emperors to the first centuries of the new millennium most people were uneducated and powerless. For this and other reasons, the breach between cleric and lay by the year one thousand was the widest in the two thousand year history of the Church. But it was also the turning point. Form the year one thousand to the year fifteen hundred, ordinary men and women began to play a more active part in the shaping of daily events. Power and wealth increased with a growing middle class, and the primitive beginnings of representative government in small towns and national assemblies began to take root and grow throughout Europe. Scholars, writers, artists, musicians, changed the world view. This was the age of Giotto, Chaucer, Dante, Boccaccio, da Vinci – all non clerics. Architecture redefined cities, and the sciences of medicine and law opened up new horizons. Universities were increasing in enrollment. A rich merchant class emerged. Papal and royal authorities were finding themselves more frequently challenged, not yet out of anger or dissatisfaction in this time of innocence, but out of an ever increasing knowledge and research. Because of this, but ever so slowly, lay progress was made in the church. The Franciscan movement, as well as others, helped define a new laity spirituality and encouraged lay teaching and scholarship. Thanks to the Crusades, knights gained new lay status in the Church’s structure. Women began to exercise roles within the Church not exercised since the fourth century, particularly in writing the renewal and reforms of western mysticism.

With these changes came an ever growing unease within the Church. On the one hand there was a sense that something was seriously wrong at the Church’s very core. Why was not this new lay voice more actively incorporated and listened to? Why was not power and authority shared? Why was it that only the cleric half of the Church seemed to share in the discipleship of Christ and not the whole Church? From the years one thousand to fifteen hundred, the theme was time and again reform, reform, reform. From the reforms of the Avignon papacy to the Gregorian reforms, to the Council of Trent, the Church struggled to come to terms with the new realities of emerging lay men and women in a changing world, but in terms of structure it also resisted. This new reality was not welcomed by Church leaders. To be equal to the constant challenges by the royal courts of Europe, the papacy in its view could not allow itself to be weakened by lay influences. In the centuries to follow, the results of this irony would be cataclysmic. Because of its rigidity the Church would be ever altered by the Protestant Reformation and what is called the Counter Reformation that followed.

Although the role of the lay person was not central to any of the Protestant reform movements at the beginning of the sixteenth century there is little doubt that the role of the lay person was greatly enhanced by these movements. Luther’s central issues of justification, good works, grace, as well as John Calvin’s views on women in the church and in society opened to thoughtful Catholics the prospect for new possible roles in the Church. Discipleship could be seen as something broader than simply one’s loyalty to the Church. It was once again seen as sharing in Christ’s mission of salvation to the world. Like Paul, one could be a disciple by being a tent maker, a non-cleric. The message was by baptism into Christ and sharing in the Eucharist of Christ we are disciples of Christ. We do not become disciples by virtue of ordination.

It cannot be said either that lay persons were a central focus of the Council of Trent (1545-1573), but they were affected. The bishops of the council hoped to enhance the lay person by focusing on better trained and more deeply spiritual clergy, something of a holy trickle down theory. The results were mixed. The council was further hampered by a continually defensive leadership and the fear of Protestant taint if a gospel rather than an ecclesiastical approach to the issues of lay men and women were adopted.

Yet the world continued to turn. Locked out of ecclesiastical power, lay men and women advanced in the secular world. Through the American and French revolutions they redefined western civilization. The concepts of unalienable rights, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, government of the people, even freedom of religion, empowered every citizen. The divine right of kings had given way to the divine right of the common man. From now on it is the citizen who is the foundation of civil power, not the king or the emperor. Still the Church remained negative and defensive. This was true for many reasons. For one, there were strong anticlerical sentiments in the revolutionary movements. Also the Church was still connected to the falling nobility, not the emerging citizen. But now the old order was fading. Except for the Church, monarchical rule was by and large dead.

But even within the Church progress was made, no matter how grudgingly and indirect. By the nineteenth century Catholic lay groups and Catholic Action had become essential parts of the Church. As women advanced in the civil world they also advanced in the Church in fields of education, health, administration, and social welfare. Yes, in terms of status, the lay person was still on the bottom rung of the Church ladder. Yes, loyalty to the institution still largely defined lay discipleship. And yes, right up to today the Church is more understood as the hierarchical institution than the Christ centered faithful. For many still, Sunday Mass is the Church experience while the day-in-day-out challenges of the other six days are the real world.

Disconnected and authoritarian the Church moved into the turmoil of the twentieth century. And thanks to great lay men and women of vision who truly believed in the Church, men and women who pressed with all the perseverance of the widow before the judge, who used the education and talents and skills they had garnished from the world, the Church with time was brought to a new dawn. With their secular influences and powers, outstanding men and women guided the Church not from within the hierarchical structure but from without, yet as surely as anyone who sat upon the seat of Peter. Great lay and clerical voices spoke throughout the century, Jacques Maritain, Danielou, Teilhard de Chardin, Francois Mauriac, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Carol Houselander, Dorothy Day, Yves Congar, Leon Joseph Suenens, Karl Rahner, and so on. Their message was one and the same. We all share in the one discipleship, we are all the one Church. There is no within and without. There is no order of worth or status higher than the living faith of the Christian. And they were heard. John XXIII threw open the windows and launched the greatest reform in the history of the Catholic Church.

But thirty years after this council we may sadly ask for what? With all our advancements, with all our supposed education, both cleric and lay, we still for the greater part remain stuck in old precepts. We have dropped the ball. Those on the right with their dire warnings and those on the left with their ire and wounds both drink from the same muddy well. It is not enough for us to be defined by the past, we have been called to define the future. The Church is not a finished structure handed on from generation to generation, it is an unfinished structure that needs it artists and artisans. We owe our love and awe and respect to this often failed and imperfect institution, and owe to its future an awful responsibility.

In terms of opportunity and education no generation has received more than we. Future generations will rightly judge if we were wanting, and neither our fears nor our complaints nor whimpering will amount to much, I am sure, in their assessments. Where then are the great voices? Where are the heirs of the Mauriacs and Greenes and Rahners, those who shepherded the Church with Peter to the greatest of all councils and did so without fear of the future or resentment of the past? Where are the visionaries? The new millennium needs its prophets. If we today cannot accept the great gift given to us by the council and claim the Church as its true disciples, then it will not have been a council that failed us but we who failed a council. Without Christ there is no Church. Without discipleship fully shared, lay and cleric, there is also no Church. But striving together for the sheer glory of it in Christ, we can, after two thousand years of trying, finally be what the early Christians always knew themselves to be: together in Christ, the Church.

In the first paper we looked at the first one thousand years to see where we came from and how we grew. In this paper we  complete this process by looking at  the second thousand years and bring history to our own doorsteps. From here perhaps we will discern the parts we must play in launching the third one thousand years.

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We have done our best to credit our sources. Please forgive us if we have overlooked any.

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