Labor Day triggers varied responses from different groups of people. For some, it is an acceptance that summer is over, and school is back in session. For others, it is a true rest from their labors. Since President Grover Cleveland signed “Labor Day” into law in 1894, Americans have celebrated workers and their achievements.
As lay ecclesial ministers labor in the vineyard, we do so to be co-responsible in the spread of the Gospel. We aren’t co-responsible just because there may be less priests around and we have to “step up our game.” We are co-responsible in our task of bringing the love and mercy of Jesus Christ to those who do not know him because it is the call of our baptism.
And this doesn’t just apply to those in “professional ministry,” this applies to the whole of the lay faithful. When we bring people to Christ, it is the greatest of achievements! St. James reminds us, “My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” ( James 5:19-20 )
Those who have dedicated their lives to parish ministry and the lay faithful our charged with the same charge Jesus gave to the disciples: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, until the end of the age.” ( Matthew 28:19-20 )
It is not enough to just go and baptize. We have a responsibility to form people, not only to follow a list of commandments, but to make a decision to accept the free gift of salvation that God gives us in his Son.
This decision to follow Jesus Christ and his Church in our baptism comes to many of us through our parents and godparents representing this initial decision. They, as first educators in the faith, have begun planting seeds that they must continue to nourish for their children. It is also up to the entire parish community to foster this growth as well.
When I hear the word “catechize,” I sometimes feel that people take this to mean a child is put on a conveyor belt and moved down an assembly line of facts and knowledge. Facts and knowledge are important to better understand the faith, but this also must be accompanied with a living witness to the Gospel. Our faith is a relationship, one that each member of a parish community is uniquely gifted and called to foster.
It is likely that our achievements from laboring in the vineyard of the Lord will not be realized until God calls us home. This co-responsibility of proclaiming the Good News is for each of us. Our particular state in life and unique platform are part of God’s design to help us accomplish this task he has given each of us.
Let us each discern our particular baptismal call and how God wants to use those gifts given to us in our baptism.