In 1998 in Rome, Pope John Paul II invited 54 different groups within the Church to come together in Rome to celebrate what God is doing for them and to share their experiences. These were all groups that were started by lay people, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to really try and live the Gospel in daily life. As a result these movements have now spread all over the world and are continually inspiring people to live as Christians and they are also acting as a powerful witness to many others to put God at the center. To give you an example, some of these groups are the Focolare movement, Marriage Encounter, L’Arche community, Charismatic Renewal, Cenacolo. They all have different focuses. For example Cenacolo is a movement that was started to help people work through addictions, particularly drug addiction. They have 27 fraternities. They live quite a monastic lifestyle with no TV, newspapers, or magazines. Their day to day life is based around prayer and hard work. Over 400,000 people came to Rome that day, representing these different groups.
All over the world this is and has been happening for some time. God’s Spirit has been moving people to step out and live their faith. In Ireland in the last 30 years there have been a huge number of prayer groups and all kinds of groups started by lay people. This is God’s doing, and I think that it’s good for us to remember that it’s going on, because you never hear about it in the papers or on the TV, but it’s happening all around us. Great things are happening.
The Lord doesn’t wait for the hierarchy of the Church to feel that the time is right, or for lay people to say that we’re ready now. The Holy Spirit just moves people when the time is right. Of course it’s important that the priests and bishops work with these groups, because that is a sign that they are on the right track, but quite often they are not the ones to start them.
Many people today are saying that the laity should be more involved in the Church and that is very true; but I also think that many lay people frequently overlook one of the most important roles that they have, that you have and that is to bring Jesus to the world in a way that priests and religious can not: in the work place and in the home, when you go out shopping and socialising. This is one of your most important tasks, which we priests can not do and it is absolutely essential that it is done, because there are so many people today who have lost sight of God and are crying out to him, but don’t know where to look. If you, who believe in God, don’t bring your faith with you, then all the people you work and live with may not find out about God. People need to experience Christianity as lived out by ordinary people. This is where you come into your own as lay people. You can bear witness to Christ by the way you live. You don’t have to open your mouth, just live your faith. I’m sure some of you have experienced this already, the more you live what you believe, the more it speaks to people and gets quite a lot of reaction, because we all constantly observe each other and notice each other. And if you live your faith, you will be different and you will be attractive, because God is attractive, holiness is attractive. That’s why all these lay groups have borne such fruit, because God is behind them, so they attract people.
Another reason I believe, why the Lord has inspired people to start all these different groups is to help each of us to realise that it is possible to live as God asks us to live. Many people today don’t believe that any more, which is why so many have turned their back on the Church, because they think that it’s silly and unrealistic, just something to help you when you’re old or sick. But God is showing us that this isn’t so, by inspiring people all over the world to really live the Gospel, to live by the teachings of Christ. And of course it’s possible, and it’s not just for priests and religious either. We have our part to play and it’s important, but so is your role and all that God has in mind for you to do.
Today's Gospel reading refers to this too. God is saying to us that we all have potential to develop what He has given us. No one is exempt. But just be careful that you are not the one who is quite happy just to hand back what you got having done nothing with it. That is the person who says ‘I’m alright thanks very much, I’m not going to bother anyone else, and let no one bother me.’ If that’s our attitude, if we are happy with the absolute minimum, we must be careful, because then we are the ones that Jesus is pointing the finger at.
When we die and meet the Lord Jesus we will only be accountable for ourselves and our own actions, so let us make the most of what God has given us. The best thing any of us can do, is to bring our faith with us to work and wherever we are.