The readings can be found here. (Lectionary: 27)
Central Idea: Our citizenship is in heaven
- God gave Abraham a vision. He promised to make of Abraham a nation of people as countless as the stars. He also promised to give them the land of Canaan to dwell in.
- The Apostles had a vision, too: Jesus was transfigured so that they saw him in his glorified body. He conversed with Moses who represents the Law of the Old Testament and Elijah who represents the prophets. And they heard the words of the Father, commanding them to listen to Christ, “my chosen Son.”
- In Christ, God also promises a land and a people. We are the people, everyone incorporated into the Church by baptism. The land is our heavenly homeland. As St. Paul said, “our citizenship is in heaven.”
- St. Paul tells the early Christians they have to live now as citizens of heaven by imitating Christ. What is that like? The early Christians could see how to live as a citizen of heaven by looking at St. Paul and those who modeled themselves on Paul. They were all, of course, modeling themselves on Christ.
- There is also the negative counterexample of people who “conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ” living as citizens of the earth.
“Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.”
Their minds are occupied with earthly things.”
- We stand patiently and firm while we live here on earth as citizens of the country of heaven.
Doctrine: The laity are to reform or renew the temporal order, that is, the world
- Every one of the baptized shares in each of Christ’s roles as prophet, priest, and king.
- Kingship refers to rule. For Christians, authority is always servant leadership, in which certain persons are given authority in order to serve the needs of others. The pope and bishops united to him have real authority under Christ to serve the needs of all the members of the Church.
- What about the laity? What is their servant-kingship? Like Adam and Eve with the mission of filling the earth and subduing it as good stewards of creation, the laity have the mission of reforming the temporal order in the light of Christ.
- The temporal order is simply the world of our day.
- The temporal order is much different today than it was in 1970 or 1930 or 1900. And it also differs greatly from place to place, as Georgia is much different than Southern California, and London is much different than Lagos. The world we live in is the one we have to try to renew.
- Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes (43) reminds us that we are citizens of two cities, the heavenly city as St. Paul says, and the earthly city.
- We are therefore to discharge our earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit.
- As Vatican II points out, one of the more serious errors of our age is the split between religious life and earthly affairs. Because of our faith, we are more obliged than ever to measure up to these duties:
“The Christian who neglects his temporal duties, neglects his duties toward his neighbor and even God, and jeopardizes his eternal salvation.”
“[F]ollowing the example of Christ Who worked as an artisan,” the laity “are free to give proper exercise to all their earthly activities and to their humane, domestic, professional, social and technical enterprises.” They do this “by gathering them into one vital synthesis with religious values, under whose supreme direction all things are harmonized unto God’s glory” (GS 43).
- This means we should be fully engaged in the world using all our powers, not least of which is the light of Christ and his grace.
- This task includes fixing what is broken:
“Moreover, let the laity also by their combined efforts remedy the customs and conditions of the world, if they are an inducement to sin, so that they all may be conformed to the norms of justice and may favor the practice of virtue rather than hinder it.”
“By so doing they will imbue culture and human activity with genuine moral values; they will better prepare the field of the world for the seed of the Word of God; and at the same time they will open wider the doors of the Church by which the message of peace may enter the world.” (GS 36)
Practical Application: Professionalism
- There is nothing more appropriate during Lent than to devote yourself to what you are supposed to be devoting yourself to. We spend most of our waking hours working. Professionalism means doing your work, whatever it is, with excellence.
- The secular or temporal world with is duties and activities belongs to the laity. The laity are entrusted with the task of renewing the temporal order. This is done mainly through work.
- To do your work professionally, you need knowledge, skills, ethics, and human virtues.
- For example, to be an appliance repairman who acts in a professional manner, you have to know how a wide variety of appliances work and be able to diagnose problems correctly. You also have to have the skills to take appliances apart, fix or replace the problem part, and put everything back together in a reasonable amount of time. Ethics in this case probably most of all means honesty: You tell the customer what is really wrong, charge a fair amount, do the work you promised to do, do not steal anything, and so on. To do all that, you also need virtues: Prudence in deciding what to do and justice toward the person you are serving, to name just two.
- These principles of professionalism apply to every form of work. Each discipline has its own proper laws which the laity who work in them must master and keep.
- Everyone is waiting for tradespersons who have the skill to do the work they are hired to do properly, honestly, and at a fair price. Everyone wants to encounters service persons and caregivers who actually serve their clients, first understanding what their needs are and then finding a way to supply them.
- What about housewives and students? Does professionalism apply to them? Think of the knowledge and skill necessary to make a home orderly, clean, well-decorated, efficiently and economically run, and in good repair. On top of this add raising children, shopping and cooking. Think also of the virtues a mother needs who makes a house into a home: Love, patience, affection, prudence, industry, and many more.
- The student who approaches her school work professionally actively takes charge of her learning rather than passively only doing what she is told to do. The professional student learns the skills needed, like how to read for information, how to take notes and study, how to manage time well. Of course, such a student also applies this knowledge. Being a student has its own ethics, too, like avoiding plagiarism and not cheating.
- A primary role of the laity in the life of the Church is to penetrate the world with a Christian spirit and to be witnesses to Christ in all things in the midst of human society. One of the most powerful ways we do this is through our work. If we do it professionally with a Christian spirit, we will be carrying out our duty to reform the temporal order, making it more human and more according to the image of the heavenly kingdom it is supposed to be. (Gaudium et Spes 43).
- We are citizens of heaven living that way while on earth, bringing the reforming light of Christ, and working with excellence to make the world more human and humane.