THE PEOPLE OF GOD
The people of God
The big question you and I should ask is who or what is the Church? The church is foremost the people, an institution but primarily a community where people feel a sense of belonging and fully participate in daily activities and Christian life experience.
The church is you and I …. the we…the assembly, the whole people of God in a particular teaching centered on the resurrected Christ. The church therefore is not only hierarchy, the clergy, members of religious communities but all the community of all baptized. A community marked by a rich diversity of gender, class, education, social status, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and culture. It includes saints and sinners alike (both divine and human). One of the council's most important affirmations, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, known by its Latin title as Lumen gentium, declared that charisms, or gifts of the Holy Spirit, areavailable to all the faithful, "of every rank" (n. 12).
The holy people of God also share in Christ’s prophetic office; It spreads abroad a living witness to Him especially by means of life of faith and charity and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the tribute of lips which give praise to his name (110) The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy one (111) cannot err in matters of belief. The manifest this proper property by means of the holy people’ supernatural discernment in matters of faith when ‘from the bishops down to the last of the lay faithful’ (8*) they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the spirit of truth. Its exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in the faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the Word of God (112). Through it the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all the saints, (113) penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life. As God choses, He assigns to a particular person a task to carry out work, with specific focus and in a particular way especially in listening to the dictates of the Holy Spirit and fully passing the same giftedness to the family, group or association. One person receives the gift of the Charism and passes it to be implied.
Its only through the sacrament and the ministry of the church, that the Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the people of God and enriches it with virtues, but allotting his gifts and everyone according as He wills (114). He distributes special grace among the faithful of every rank. By these gifts he makes them fit and ready to undertake the various tasks and office which contribute towards the renewal and building up of the church, according to the words of the apostle. ‘The manifestation of the spirit is given to everyone for profit.’ (115). These charism whether they be the more outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation, for they are perfectly suited to and useful to the needs of the church. Extraordinary gifts are not to be sort after, nor are the fruits of the apostolic labour to be presumptuously expected from their use, but judgement as to their genuinity and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good (116).
Literally speaking a charism can be compared to a vision. Whoever who has the vision has to delabour to pass it to the group and make sure that she or he makes every member conceptualizes it. The interpretation may vary but important that the followers are able to own it and participate in it.
We find the People-of-God principle realized, although with varying degrees of success, in parish councils, in base communities, in the multiplication of ministries, and particularly in ministries associated with the liturgy, education and social justice.
The church that has entered the 21st century and the Third Christian Millennium is a church in which an increasing number of its members, laywomen and laymen alike, are ministerially engaged and play a great role. One does not need any scientific surveys to verify what is obvious to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear, namely, that the great majority of parish ministers today are women, and this is likely to remain so into the indefinite future.
At the same time, the alienation of many Catholic women from the official church remains one of its most serious pastoral challenges. Today Cardinals are sacked, asked to submit their resignation and relieved off their duties for failure on their part to act accordingly to the required norms and as duty demand. They were not personally involved in the crimes in the church but they are responsible and in charge when those crimes were committed under their watch. They have to take responsibility and defend their cause to why that happened and they remained silent, or rubbished the idea or simply used their tittle of prince of the church to undermine truth.
Many Catholics are worrying about the lowering number of vocation to priesthood, the scandals that are rocking the church, ignoring or rubbishing the investigation reports in form of suppressing them and simply not acting upon them as expected. These reports concern the pastoral performance and personal qualities of candidates to priesthood and bishopric.
Importing priests from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe is not the answer. On the contrary, it sometimes generates new problems to be added to the old and yet it’s the reality the European Church seems to be burying its head in the sand or running away from.
Today most European churches are being turned into disco halls, orchestra auditorium or museums to show the powers the church used to control for many centuries. Missionaries were sent to African to save the Africans from the power of devil, and their strategies were very poor looking at their means and time of preparation to confront the reality of Dark continent of Africa.
They could baptize Africans in the following formula ‘I baptize you, so and so if at all you have a soul. These are some of the sins the European church has committed to Africans. The Church in European is dying, who is going to save Europe? The people they thought they didn’t have souls. That is the hard reality, with all these drama in the high seas of migration, the wave seems to be changing either for the worst or for the best, the church has to wake up to that reality before her eyes.
If the People of God are to be effectively served in the coming decades, the church will have to be much more open to the signs of time, involving women in active church activities. The church is mother and if the women are mothers of families I do believe they understand very well the body of Christ the Mother, the lay faithfully taking up the special ministries within the given communities…Eucharist ministers, acolytes, readers, visiting the sick, parish council, parish administration, retreats etc. Without which all will end into the current vocations shortage in the Catholic church.
The first church is the family, ignore the family and kill the main church. However, some seem convinced that the problem will somehow go away through prayer and fasting, or applying inventive techniques of making personal contact with prospective candidates for the priesthood. Some local Bishops have the male dominant effects of big man syndrome in the church, to be seen commanding rather than being servant of servants in their dioceses, that has ruined and tainted the catholic church in some global regions.
The great days of privilege that they commanded everything is over and unless the shape up or they get shipped out. Today a catholic bishop can be asked to resign or simply tender in his resignation if he feels that he can’t carry out as required his pastoral duties and responsibility as the local pastor of the diocese. Many years ago, this could not even be meditated upon.
That is how far the church is shaping up its acts in the call for rebranding her message to the modern secularized world. Calling the church, the People of God, as the council did, means that we all have responsibility for its life and mission, especially at a time when its leadership sometimes functions as an obstacle rather than a facilitator.