Engaging the Gospel – Mark 6:7-13

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 6:7-13

Jesus bestows authority upon the Apostles and sends them forth

As today’s Gospel makes clear,

Christ is Himself the source of ministry in the Church. He instituted the Church. He gave her authority and mission, orientation and goal. In order to shepherd the People of God and to increase its numbers without cease, Christ the Lord set up in His Church a variety of offices which aim at the good of the whole body.

— Catechism paragraph 874.

Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to His apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry.

— paragraph 1536.

Ordination configures the priest to Christ as the Head, marks upon him an “indelible spiritual character” (1581-82) and “confers a sacred power for the service of the faithful” (1592).

Through the priest, “it is Christ Himself who is present to His Church as Head of His Body, Shepherd of His flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth” (1548). “Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to the affairs of the Lord, [priests] give themselves entirely to God and to [us]” (1579).

St. John Vianney, patron saint of all priests, summed up the gift of the ministerial priesthood:

If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die not of fright but of love. The Priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus.

— quoted in paragraph 1589.

While those in Holy Orders have especially grave obligations, the laity are also called to proclaim the Gospel, and provide faithful witness to Christ, in every sphere of life:

The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is ‘sent out’ into the whole world. All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways.

— paragraph 863.

Since, like all the faithful, lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth.

— paragraph 900.

It is from God’s love for all men that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism, for the love of Christ urges us on.

— paragraph 851.

Question for reflection: What priests have been most helpful to my spiritual life?

The Mission of the Lay Faithful

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 897-913:

  • The lay faithful are distinguished from the clergy, or those consecrated in religious life, by their mission to advance the Gospel in the midst of the world.
  • Each and every human activity is subject to God’s dominion; as laity, we are involved in all of the various aspects of contemporary life, and so are called to influence society and culture in a Christian direction.
  • Lay participation is vital to shaping political and economic life in accordance with the Gospel; by working for just laws, we do not “impose” ourselves on others, but rather promote the common good of all, including non-believers.
  • It is not only our right, but our duty, to communicate our faith in the public square; it is not simply a task that we volunteer for, but a responsibility that flows from the fullness of Christian life.
  • The Lord equips us for our mission through the sacraments; by virtue of our Baptism and Confirmation, we participate in Christ’s priestly, prophetic, and kingly office.
  • Our participation in the priestly office means that we are empowered to offer our spiritual sacrifices – prayers and works – and to offer ourselves to the Father during the celebration of the Eucharist; through these acts of worship, we consecrate the world to God.
  • This is different in its very essence from the ministerial priesthood, which is conformed to Christ in a special way through Holy Orders and empowered to celebrate the sacraments.
  • We participate in the prophetic office by our witness of faith in daily life; often we do so through the power of example, but when the opportunity arises, we should also speak up for the truth of Christ.
  • The kingly office is characterized by self-mastery: we are to rule over ourselves by overcoming sin and striving for holiness; in this way we are strengthened to carry out our mission to be “leaven in the world.”
  • While our sharing in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office primarily involves our life in the world, it also has an application in the life of the Church, so that the lay faithful may exercise stewardship in appropriate ways.

Live Your Faith

Because of the dignity and importance of our mission as lay faithful, our faith cannot be reduced to merely personal belief, a piety that is hidden and private.

To fulfill the charge that Christ gives us, our faith must necessarily take the form of public witness, in whatever way that is possible in our own life circumstances.

If we understand this responsibility, we cannot be “personally opposed” to intrinsic evil (e.g., abortion), but supportive of it as public policy.