Joseph Dinh Duc Dao
The question examined here is the specific field where the lay faithful exercise their mission. In this regard, the apostolic exhortation, Christifideles Laici, recalling the teaching of Evangelii Nuntiandi, affirms that the field of the evangelizing activity of the laity is the vast and complicated world of politics, society, economics, culture, sciences, arts, international structures, and mass media. It also includes the realities of human love, family, education of children and adolescents, and professional works.The evangelizing action of the lay faithful is so needed today in this field of secular realities, when so many changes are taking place and creating so much confusion.
However, many lay men and women are keeping themselves aloof from society because of difficulties and dangers; others are getting lost because of temptations. According to Christifideles Laici, there are two temptations, that is, “the temptation of being so strongly interested in Church services and tasks that some fail to become actively engaged in their responsibilities in the professional, social, cultural,and political world; and the temptation of legitimizing the unwarranted separation of faith from life, that is, a separation of the Gospel’s acceptance from the actual living of the Gospel in various situations in the world” (CL,2).
The temptations indicated by Christifideles Laici in the context of the universal Church are very real in Asia. The first temptation prevents the lay faithful from being active in society. The church communities certainly need the service not only of the clergy and the religious, but also of many lay faithful. But a problem arises when all or the majority of the lay faithful think of the service only in the context of the church community, without being able to understand their Christian responsibility beyond the boundary of the church community. Then the vast field of society is left open to all forces, except to the gospel, because of the absence of the lay faithful.
The second temptation makes the lay faithful become a meaningless, insignificant presence in society. They are present in the secular realities, but they hide their Christian identity and conviction. Instead of bringing the light of the gospel to enlighten the world, they rush behind the environment in their behavior, choices, and life style; hence their presence as Christians is meaningless….
The lay faithful in their missionary commitment in the secular realities do not treat simply the impersonal aspects of life, but also with people who deal with and even give command in those secular realities, often with a secular heart and mind. This fact requires from the lay faithful an open mind and a loving heart which are transformed by the saving love of Christ in order to enlighten the realities and to transform the hearts of people. Doing so, the lay faithful will be like salt, light, and leaven in society.Their presence and their actions, penetrated by the perfume of the gospel will edify the environment, enlighten the mind,and raise up the heart.
At this point, I need to say something which is not common, that is, one should be helping and serving not only the poor, but the rich and the powerful with the saving love of Christ, because they are people who decide the fate of the poor and of the nations and, particularly, because they are also loved by Christ. He has become a man, suffered, died, and rose from the dead also for them. The rich, the powerful too need to hear the Good News that they are loved by God. Someone must whisper to their ears and their hearts this great message. Therefore, one needs a formation program which knows how to involve the intellectuals, the professionals, the rich, such as students, professors of university, lawyers, politicians… so that they may be leaven and messengers to their peers….
It is a habit to say that the Church of Asia must respond to threefold challenges, that is, the challenge of the cultures, the challenge of the religions, and the challenge of the poor and, therefore, the Church must learn to dialogue with them: cultures, religions, and the poor. Without minimizing the importance of the above-mentioned challenges, I see the utmost challenge which the Church must respond to in Asia is the challenge of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is present, visibly, and forcefully in Asia today as in the primitive Church narrated in the Acts of the Apostles….
In the context of the threefold challenges, we may say analogically that it is the Holy Spirit who helps the Church in Asia to perceive the threefold challenges and all other challenges in a right way, and to respond to them in an appropriate way.
This affirmation has a direct and concrete consequence for the formation programs of the laity. It should be a program which helps the lay faithful to be attentive to the whisperings and docile to the actions of the Holy Spirit, a formation which enables them to discern the inspirations and the actions of the Holy Spirit. The capacity of discernment of the Spirit is particularly necessary to the lay faithful who must operate in the ambiguity of secular realities….
May all the lay faithful of Asia today be able to hear the mysterious call of Jesus and answer Him. Then I would like to end this reflection with an invitation to all lay brothers and sisters, an invitation which consists in two words: “up” and “out”:
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
to tell all people: Christ is alive; He is our life and our Savior.