MANILA, Jan. 18, 2014—In line with the Philippine Church’s celebration of 2014 as the Year of the Laity, the top churchman of the Manila Archdiocese on Saturday emphasized the role played by the lay faithful in the transformation of the secular affairs of the state.
Kicking off the Katolikong Pinoy Series with the theme “The Light of Faith in the Heart of the Laity,” Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle challenged Filipinos to continuously engage “within the (state’s) temporal affairs, so we can reorder or realign these affairs according to the plan of God.”
“This is the big responsibility of the lay people,” Tagle said in Filipino during his talk held at the Layforce Chapel of the San Carlos Seminary. “The gift, charism, and ministry of the lay people, according to Vatican II, is to seek and proclaim the kingdom of the Lord through engaging themselves in the affairs of the state.”
Referencing his talk to the Vatican document Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic constitution on the church promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1964, Tagle noted the need for lay individuals or the non-ordained members of the church to penetrate and usher transformation to the different straits of society.
“(The responsibility is not to simply) engage in temporal affairs. It is engaging in these affairs within so we can reorder or realign them according to the plan of God,” he said.
Tagle said that the capability of the laity to initiate change in the different straits of society differentiates them from the ordained priests and ministers of the church.
“We, priests, can talk about politics and certain ethical economic practices, but we admit that we are outsiders in these fields. We are not politicians or economists. So who has the deeper responsibility to transform the world in accordance to God’s plan? That is where the laity enters,” he said.
Engaging in temporal affairs
Tagle also stressed the need for the lay faithful to engage in “those institutions and conditions of the world customarily induced to sin” not to participate in the commission of immorality but to give remedy to it.
“The mission of the laity is so beautiful, but we have to admit that it is a heavy responsibility to fulfill. The usual tendency is for the people to distance themselves from certain temporal affairs which could lead them to temptation, and eventually, to self-destruction,” he said.
“Sometimes, I see young individuals who can be potential leaders of the country. I tell them that they might be capable of becoming good public officials who can transform the country’s political landscape. But they refrain from doing so due to fears that they might be negatively influenced by the system,” he said.
“But can’t we do the opposite? Instead of being influenced, why can’t we be the ones to influence those who are corrupt? Why is it that the good is always trampled by the corrupt? I hope that this time around, the corrupt will be the ones to be influenced by goodness. That is how a laity should be,” Tagle added.
The senior prelate also noted that the lay involvement of church workers in liturgical celebrations is not enough because what matters is the profession of their faith “at the level of temporal order.”
“Participation in the liturgy is good but the service of the laity must not end there. Liturgical participation is important and good, but it could not be considered on its own as true lay involvement,” he said.
“It is easy to proclaim the word of the Lord in the Eucharist…But if you are to proclaim His words at the level of temporal order, will others listen to you? That is where your true duty is,” he added.
‘Present and operative’
According to Tagle, the presence of the laity must not be downplayed for it is through them that the church becomes “actively present” in the world.
“The mission of the laity in the temporal order must neither be downplayed as an extra-curricular activity nor an appendix in the mission of the church or any priest or religious individual,” he said.
“The presence of the laity as missionaries of the world manifests the true presence of the church. You make the church present and operative. If not because of lay individuals, the church will not be present there. Only the laity could bring the presence of the church to the world. That is an affirmation of the dignity and heavy responsibility of the laity,” Tagle added.
“The word of Christ is louder than the senseless noise of the world and its sins. As stated by Vatican II, no secular affair should be exempt from the kingdom of God. Through the laity, the Holy Spirit could really penetrate the world,” he said.
Laity as part of the church
Tagle said that the laity must not be perceived as individuals with less spirituality compared with the ordained members of the church.
“A lay person must not be perceived as a Christian who lacks ordination, religious vow, or profession. They are not lower beings, and they will never be less for they are graces who came from the Lord. They are baptized members of the church who participate in the Eucharist, fully incorporated to Christ and to His church,” he said.
Respecting the different calling possessed by each individual is the key to foster a harmonious relationship among all members of the church, Tagle said.
“Despite the differences we have, we share the same faith, the same baptism, the same God and His Church…and in a church that is united, we have different gifts from the Holy Spirit, as well as different situations and calling in life,” he noted.
“The same goes for the church. There are those who are called to become shepherds, while there are those who are given the grace to become religious priests. But there are also those who are called to become lay people,” he said.
Tagle said lay individuals must not perceive themselves as less holy since they are non-ordained members of the church, noting that all those who are baptized are part of Christ.
“Thinking that holiness is only for a few religious individuals is like neglecting your own holiness. Vatican II teaches that holiness is universal. All who are baptized are holy. All of us must lead holy lives since we are all incorporated to Christ and His church,” he said.
As the church celebrates the Year of the Laity, Tagle urged the faithful to transform the Filipino culture in such a way that it will be reorganized according to plan of God.
He also challenged the lay people to deepen the way they perceive culture, dealing not only with its exterior aspects, but also to its interior as manifested by one’s world view, values, and priorities.
“The area of secular quality proper to the laity that has to be penetrated and reordered according to the kingdom of God is culture. And culture should not only constitute the exterior, but as well as our value system, world view, priority, and behavior—all these could be reordered according to the kingdom of God,” he said.
He advised Filipinos to use the strengths of their culture to their advantage and transform their weaknesses into opportunities where they can improve themselves on.
Tagle urged the faithful to let the value of integrity penetrate their lives to eventually lessen, if not totally eradicate, the culture of corruption hounding the society.
“It seems like the Filipino culture is in dire need of one area of transformation—integrity. We have to develop this culture of integrity…to change the pressing elements of corruption that has penetrated our society,” he said. (Jennifer Orillaza)