First, let me preface this presentation with the comment that it was first written two months ago. Due to the length of our past few meetings, I have not had to prepare additional presentations. My wife and I thank you for the break over the summer.
Second, I am well aware that Pope Francis canonized Mother Theresa last Sunday, and she is officially St. Theresa of Kolkata. Who am I to comment on the life of this most saintly person?
A little over a month ago, our First Degree team completed its fourth year and, at that time, initiated the 200th candidate to become a member of our order. Several of you were present, and I believe I can speak for the team expressing our appreciation for your participation and support over those four years.
As you recall your own First Degree, you will recall that the Grand Knight challenges the new brothers to grow themselves in the Church and to learn the rules and laws of the Knights. I know we have all had at least an introduction to the teachings of our faith. The role of the council lecturer is to entertain the membership, but the title implies that the lecturer should also remind the membership from time to time about the duties and responsibilities of what it means to be a Knight. And that would include an occasional reminder of what we know about our Church and our faith. So, this talk is like an excerpt from what could be called “Catholicism for Dummies.”
There are usually 52 Sundays in the calendar year. Twenty-five are devoted to specific feasts or seasons. The remaining Sundays are identified as “Ordinary Time.” During the historical periods we refer to as the Dark and Middle Ages, the faithful were generally illiterate. So, in her wisdom, the Church established specific vestment colors for each of the seasons or specific celebrations during the year to set the tone of the season.
The liturgical year starts with the season of Advent, and the celebrant wears purple. Advent is followed by the Christmas season, which ends with the Epiphany of our Lord and the priest wears white. The next Sunday is the Baptism of the Lord. The next few weeks are “Ordinary Time.” Then, Lent starts, and we are back to purple followed by the Easter season (white), which is followed by Pentecost (red), Trinity Sunday and, finally, the Sunday we knew as Corpus Christi (the name has been changed). Then comes a long stretch of what the Church calls “Ordinary Time.” The liturgical year ends with the Feast of Christ the King, near the end of November.
The English language has over 2 billion words with a few thousand added just about every week, making it one of the world’s most difficult languages. There are a couple hundred thousand that we commonly use. However, the most common often have various meanings depending upon how they are being used.
Take the word “ordinary.” A quick Google shows the word has several different meanings, 14 to be specific. Eight are possible if it is being used as an adjective, and six more if it is being used as a noun.
We in Dallas are waiting for the Vatican to appoint an “ordinary” to the position of Bishop for the diocese. Under English Ecclesiastical Law, that is a bishop, archbishop or other ecclesiastic or his deputy, in his capacity, as an ex-officio ecclesiastical authority.
The “ordinary“ of the Mass is the Mass with the exception of the canon.
Probably the most understood meaning is the adjective meaning “commonplace,” “unexceptional” or of “no special interest.” However, the Church’s “Ordinary Time” should not be considered “of no special interest.”
The Mass consists of both the Celebration of the Eucharist but also a period of instruction known as The Liturgy of the Word. During the various special seasons, the Liturgy of the Word prepares us for the climax of that season. For example, Advent’s readings prepare us for Christmas. The first readings of the Old Testament speak of the prophecies of a coming Messiah; the Gospel readings begin to tell the story of the birth of Christ while the second reading from the Letters of the Apostles tie the Nativity of Jesus to the prophecies of the Old Testament. The season of Lent has similar readings that lead us to the coming events of Holy Week and Easter.
What of the other 27 Sundays, give or take a few depending on the calendar of the liturgical year? It is during these Sundays of Ordinary Time that the Liturgy of the Word teaches us what it means to be a Christian and, specifically, a Catholic. The Church has established that the vestments for this time shall be green. I asked Father Eugene if there was a specific reason for the color, and he didn’t believe that the color was chosen for a liturgical reason but did say that green is the color of life. A wise choice, for it is during this time that the readings teach how we should live our lives and what it means to be a follower of Christ.
It is also during this time that we hear of the miracles Jesus performed. For example, on the first Sunday after Corpus Christi, the first reading tells of God restoring life to a widow’s only son in answer to Elijah’s prayer. The Gospel for that Sunday tells of Jesus restoring life to a widow’s son. Obviously, the first reading and the Gospel are directly related. Elijah knew that only God has the power to restore life, and Jesus, because of his divinity, was able to also restore life.
The second reading tells of the conversion of St. Paul. Jesus restores “life” to Paul, changing him from one of the church’s most active persecutors to one of the church’s greatest teachers. St. Paul’s “time in the grave” is the period of blindness he experienced in Damascus before emerging and becoming the Apostle to the Gentiles, spreading the Gospel through Asia Minor, Greece and to Rome.
As Christians, we should listen carefully to the Liturgy of the Word during Ordinary Time and attempt to see how the two readings, the Gospel, the Psalm and even the hymns sung during the service are related to each other. Look for the message they proclaim and attempt to apply that message to our daily lives. Several weeks ago, Father Eugene asked us to read Hebrews. Two weeks later, he then asked us to read it again because each time we read the scriptures we can gain a new or different insight to the meaning of the words.
As Knights, we should set the example for our families and for our fellow parishioners. We are also called to share the “Good News” with our communities. We do this by being an example, by works of charity, by living our faith day in and day out.
We can begin to share that “Good News” right here in this community of Knights. Our Grand Knight has requested that we treat each other with respect. We may not necessarily agree with our brothers, but we must respect their right to hold views that differ from our own.
The Gospels tell us that Jesus was asked which of the commandments was the most important. His reply was to give us a new commandment – Jesus said to love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul and your whole mind. That this was the first and greatest commandment. Then, he added a second commandment, one that is found in one way or another in every major world religion. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. He then said that on these two commandments hang all of the law and the prophets. Surely, our Grand Knight’s request is not too much to ask.