I actually mean bottom up.
We go for mass on Sundays. Well, that was the routine pre-pandemic. And we belong to a parish. We are part of a congregation and like it or not, one in a community. We are the lay faithful. We are the church. Not a building, but people entrusted to make relevant the Gospel in our own life, and life that we share with others. We still are whether we go on Sundays or not. This is our personal responsibility.
Our universal Church is structured and organised. We are one among millions of Catholic Christians in life. In an institution where authority is necessary to lead, guide and shape, we the lay faithful sit at the bottom of the structure. We are entrusted to do only small things, unique to who we are and what talent we have. In the small circle of life that we share with others, it is our Christian responsibility to make the Gospel relevant.
“The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.” (Today’s Gospel)
We each have a unique talent or talents. Some have five, others two or maybe less, one. As Christians, we are to use these talents in a responsible way because at the end of our time we are accountable for them. We are to use them primarily to serve the needs of the Gospel.
We are the lay faithful in a parish setting. The organized structure although necessary for administrative needs is really intended to serve the pastoral needs of the people. Fulfilling these needs cannot be dripped down from the top through layers of hierarchy and authority. We are church that necessitated the institution and not an institution that houses a church. We are the lay faithful, the church, meaning to mission to one another.
Fr. John Murray*, our priest at the Cathedral here in Bangkok wrote this week, “If we want a church of mission that is alive and thriving, it must come from bottom up, it must rise from the faithful and their dreams, vision and needs”.
This is my vision of a vibrant parish. We must start small fires within our parish community. The fires are lit because of needs and vision, our talent the matchstick used to start the fire. It could be to start a ministry to address a certain pastoral need such as to start a Sunday canteen. We each have different talent suiting liturgical, pastoral and prayer needs. We start small pockets of fire within the congregation. Fires here and there that are small but will spread to link up and set the whole parish ablaze.
If we all do that as the lay faithful, wherever we are, the universal Church will eventually be ablaze! This does not work from top down but bottom up.
Fr. John* wisely concluded, “The way to go is to give the faithful space, let them share their dreams, listen to them and let them do it for themselves. No need to urge control, just allow for good order and give people freedom to be and act for the Gospel. Long live the revolution of the Gospel!”
I will “bottoms up” to that.
*Fr. John’s blog:
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time