Just recently I was visiting a man in a prison many miles from here. He is a teacher by profession who has ruined his life and hurt some people very badly. I asked him how he was surviving. He told me "surprisingly well" – but only because the volunteers in the prison had helped him a great deal with their ministry and their kindness. As they took on the responsibility of being 'Good News' in that prison, where people have lost every vestige of their dignity, they brought life and meaning to the men who were there.
It struck me, as it has done often before, that it is through our baptism that we all have an equal responsibility to share the Good News. It is not the prerogative of the clergy. We are all called to collaborate with one another in this task. Through our baptism we are all called into ministry. We all have a vocation. Our ministries are distinct from one another but none are superior to the other. Why? Because we all have equal dignity in the eyes of God.
Sadly, much of that invitation to live out our baptismal calling and to do it collaboratively with others – priests and people together – has fallen on deaf ears. The overemphasis on the ministerial priesthood has led to what Pope Francis has called "the scourge of clericalism" and sometimes to the abuse of power.
Many of us clergy have not understood the call of Vatican II to collaborative ministry and many of the laity have been content to pander to 'Father's whims' and leave him on a pedestal, removed from humanity, which is not good for him or for the Church. So where do we go from here? What sort of Church do we want to be part of?
I can't answer for anyone reading this but I know that I want to be part of a Church led, and infused, by the Spirit of God. I want to be part of a Church where together priests and people share in the responsibility of proclaiming the Good News. I want to be part of a Church where we respect the dignity of one another and of our distinct but equal ministries. I want to be part of a Church that is always on the side of those who have no voice and I want to be part of a Church where the "scourge of clericalism" is lost in the mists of time.
A phrase that means a lot to the Emmaus community in Southport, of which I have been part for many years, is this: "None of us have it all together but all together we have it all." The Church is the body of Christ here on earth and it is together that we can move forward and be a force for good as we allow the Gospel to permeate the world we live in.