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In his Jewish community Jesus was simply a lay person. He did in no way belong to the priestly class which was made up of certain families with particular functions in the temple. Nor did Jesus ever join any of the exclusive religious groups of his time like the monks of Qumran at the shores of the Dead Sea, secluded from profane life and living as a community in an ascetic lifestyle. Jesus grew up as a simple village boy in an unknown hamlet of the backward countryside of Galilee. Later he was a wandering teacher who proclaimed his message without any institutional sanction or support, merely on the strength of his prophetic mission. His only support was his “ABBA”- Father in heaven.

As a lay person Jesus felt at home with the people. He joined their joyous feast (Jn.2:1-12). He was close to the poor, but he also moved among the higher social rank and smiled about the social games that were played among them (Lk.14:7-14). He was aware of the sufferings of the people, the oppression through the Romans, the arbitrary tax system, the helplessness of people in their family problems when a lonely widow loses her only son or a distressed father sees his younger boy walking away into the treacherous city. He also was keenly aware of the general lack of concern for the common people. In spite of good laws and established religious structures in temples and synagogues, he felt that the people were like sheep without a shepherd (Mt.9:36).

Jesus spoke the language of the people; he did not give elaborate lectures but told them stories which everyone could understand. He had no academic sanction for his teaching, no official recognition from the religious leaders. How could a simple lay person claim to know and to interpret “Torah” (Pentateuch -The first five books of Bible)? How could Jesus, with a whip in his hand, drive the merchants out of the temple without a permit from the temple police, who were responsible for the order in the holy place? And still Jesus had power- an irresistible power which came all from within, and so the authorities were afraid of him. He was a threat to their official positions. Had not God established them in their authority? Lay people, they thought, should be silent. With the entire hierarchy against him, without any official support He stood with no chance. He was condemned, persecuted and executed. He was scourged at the pillar and was crucified as a criminal. He accepted the injustice of hierarchy and died as a lay person.

In this closeness to the people Jesus effectively proclaimed his message of “the reign of God”, of a new human society, where God and his love rule supreme. Jesus was not concerned with reforms in the temple or with the elaborate regulations of the law. His spirituality was secular. He called for a true conversion of hearts; from these renewed hearts a new society will be born, based not on power and exploitation but on mutual acceptance and love. The world will be renewed not by legislation and institutions, however necessary they are, but by the people in the world who know that God is the Father of all, and who want that justice and love be the bonds by which the people are united as brothers and sisters to build true community. It is for lay people in their actual life situations to realize this message of Jesus in the world, also in our world. I therefore, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Eph4:1.

+ In Christ,


Father Henry Peter MSFS,

Sacred Heart Church,

Bhusawal, Maharashtra, India.


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