The Christmas decorations have been put away. The weeks before the celebration are full of much preparation, but the day itself passes quickly. That is why the Church extends its celebration for 12 days and, in reality, several more until we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. But now what the Church calls Ordinary Time enters our life.
Church time revolves around two major feasts, Christmas when we celebrate Christ’s birth and the Solemnity of Easter when we celebrate His victory over sin and death. Ordinary Time extends from the Baptism of the Lord and continues until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. After Lent and the Easter Season, Ordinary Time resumes on the Monday after Pentecost and continues until the Saturday evening before the First Sunday of Advent.
In the life of the Church, seasons are as important as the liturgical celebrations. The late Henri Nouwen, a popular writer of spiritual books, once explained to his nephew:
“To listen to the Church is to listen to the Lord of the Church. Specifically, this means taking part in the Church’s liturgical life: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. These seasons and feasts teach you to know Jesus better and better, and unite you more and more intimately with the divine life he offers you in the Church.” (Eternal Seasons, Michael Ford, editor p.19)
I have always felt that the Church in her liturgy has the ability to capture the mood of the celebration and lift us and our spirits up and bring us along on the exciting journey of life and faith. I have experienced this during the times of preparation for the great feasts, the celebration of the feasts and even in the days of Ordinary Time.
Although the Church calls the longest segment of the Church Year “Ordinary,” is there ever anything truly ordinary about the proclamation of the Gospel? I think not! The Gospel is eternally new and each time we read it or hear it, new thoughts, new challenges and new invitations come our way that have the potential to influence us for good.
During the coming year and well into the future, I hope that you will join me in proclaiming the Gospel in your words and actions. That is what the new evangelization is all about and there is nothing ordinary about it.
Pope Benedict XVI has wisely observed, “. . . there has been a troubling loss of the sense of the sacred, which has even called into question foundations once deemed unshakable, such as faith in the provident creator God, the revelation of Jesus Christ as the one Savior, and a common understanding of basic human experiences, such as; birth, death, life in a family and reference to a natural moral law” (Benedict XVI, Ubicumque et Semper, 2010).
These observations are the primary cause of the “new evangelization.” The message or good news has not changed because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Yet the time and the way in which we must proclaim Him have changed. The proclamation of the Gospel, in our times, requires a renewed ardor and enthusiasm as well as an understanding of the diverse situations and cultural elements in which we live. This is the “new” in the new evangelization.
The important work of evangelization requires from each of us an interior renewal of our relationship with Christ. We cannot proclaim Him authentically unless we are formed ever more deeply in His image and likeness. “Necessary above all to proclaim profoundly the Word of the Gospel is a profound experience of God.” (Ubicumque et Semper)
Our efforts at the new evangelization must begin with our families. It is in the family circle that we first come to know God. Parents are the first and best teachers of their children in the ways of faith. Within our families, we need to foster the faith, nurture it and keep it as a living reality. It is only in this way that we will make our families, holy families.
There are two things that each of us can do to participate in the new evangelization. The first is to make every effort to know our faith, by studying the Bible and the teachings of the Church, and living it through prayer and participation in the sacraments. The second is to share the faith with others. There are many practical ways that we can do both of these things. Hopefully columns during the coming year will offer suggestions. In the meantime, we must all take the time to hear the good news and to experience the love of God that comes to us in Jesus Christ, so that we can, in turn, go out and say to others, “God loves you!”
If you have an intention you would like me to remember in prayer during the coming weeks, please forward it to me at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.