Most Rev. Oswald Lewis
Bishop of Jaipur

2018 Easter Message By Most Rev. Oswald Lewis


Laity Sunday, annually celebrated on the last Sunday of June, which is close to the memory of St. Thomas More, the Patron Saint of the Laity, reminded me of the Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, “Christifidelis Laici” of His Holiness Pope John Paul II on “The Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World.” This Apostolic Exhortation was the result of the Synod of Bishops held in October 1987, almost twenty years after the Second Vatican Council. In its introductory chapter Pope John Paul II compares the Lay Faithful with the labourers in the Vineyard mentioned in Mathew’s Gospel. “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.”(Mt 20:1-2) which the vineyard is the whole world, the labourers are both men and women who are called and sent forth to work in it. (CL1)

“And going out aobut the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place; and to them he said, “You go into the vineyard too”. (Mt 20: 3-4) These words of sending the labourers into the vineyard are resounded from the times of the Gospels. They are addressed not just to the Clergy and Religious alone but to everyone. Lay people are also personally called by the Lord and are sent –“You go too.” St. Gregory the Great recalls this fact and comments on the parable of the labourers in the vineyard: “Keep watch over your manner of life, dear people, and make sure that you are indeed the Lord’s labourers. Each person should take into account what he does and consider if he is laboring in the vineyard of the Lord.” (CL 2) The Second Vatican Council has emphasized the dignity, spirituality, mission and responsibility of the lay faithful. The Council Fathers, re-echoing the call of Christ, have summoned all the lay faithful, both women and men, to labour int eh vineyard. The Laity is requested to be glad, generous and prompt in responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Young people should feel that his call is directed to them and respond to it.

While the call of Christ to the Laity to go the vineyard and clear, the laity faces several challeges in the vineyard. In a country like our mother land, India, there is erosion of values. Our Indian society is totally disfigured by the cancer of corruption that has eaten up the goodness of family life and social life. Integrity is no longer to be found. Consequently violence and violence is supreme in the family, in the society, in the villages and states. Violence has not spared even the infants. The dehumanizing and stark poverty that characterizes the lives of millions of people in India is another great challenge. On the one hand the number of capitalists is increasing and the country is known for its developing economy, on the other hand the number of poor is increasing by leaps and bounds. The sentiments expressed by Mahatma Gandhi, “We have enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.” Have proved to be true. Volumes have been written, five year plans have gone by, much has been promised but the eradication of poverty is still far far away. People who are poor also experience social discrimination. Human beings are divided on the basis of gender, caste and religion. They are exploited and treated badly. Discrimination has increased to such a height, it has now become violence. So there is increasing violence against women, against dalits and people of lower castes and against religious minorities.

While these above mentioned are few major challenges, there are several others that the Lay Faithful of Christ face in their day to day life. It is in this vineyard that they are sent to work. “This, then, is the vineyard; this is the field in which the faithful are called to fulfill their mission. Jesus wants them, as he wants all his disciples, to be the ‘Salt of the earth’ and the ‘Light of the world.’ (CL 3)” Our faith in the Risen Lord gives us the courage to face these hurdles and to bear witness to Gospel values. His assurance, “I am with you always to the ends of the earth”(Mt 28: 20) is our constant support. Therefore the Laity confidently commits themselves again and again to the mission entrusted to them. “By the grace and call of Baptism and Confirmation all Lay people are missionaries; and the area of their missionary work is the vast and complex world of politics, economics, industry, education, health, the media, science, technology, arts and sports.” (EA 45) Lay persons, by their example of life, their professional competence and uprightness and by being true witness to the Gospel can evangelize and transform the world. (CL 62)

Christifidelis Laici speaks extensively on the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful. This Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, in 5 chapters with 64 subtitles describes the call and responsibilities of the Laity. Christ’s Faithful are also called to holiness. Their vocation to holiness implies, “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3: 17) The Labourers in the Vineyard are exhorted with regard to their family life, nurturing the children, respecting the elders, promoting dignity of person, respecting the inviolable right for life, rights and duties in the society, in the state and their commitment to serve the Church.

+ Rt. Rev. Dr. Oswald Joseph Lewis
Bishop of Jaipur

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