The general description of Ordinary Time is a time "wherein the faithful consider the fullness of Jesus' teachings and works among his people."(USCCB Website) or when "the mystery of Christ itself is honored in its fullness, especially on Sundays." (Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year.) While the green of winter Ordinary Time suggests growth and learning, the stretch we have just entered is different. Rather, because of what has just preceded it, it offers an opportunity to move toward mission. We have just celebrated the Resurrection, the Ascension and Pentecost - all of which call us to do something besides sit at Christ's feet. We have witnessed the power of Paschal Mystery and heard Jesus ask us to preach the Gospel to all the world. This year, it sounded like this:
Jesus said to his disciples:This is a pretty daring job description! I don't know that snake handling is the way I want to go, personally speaking! However, as he promised, Jesus then sent the Spirit to strengthen, equip and inspire us to do great things in his name. The alternate Gospel for Pentecost explains this best:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs. (Mark 16:15-20)
Jesus said to his disciples:in another recent post that perhaps summer Ordinary Time is really the moment to build the community and to evangelize, but that goes against prevailing American practice, which sees summer as "down time."
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.” (John 15:26-27; 16: 12-15)
What would it mean if a parish were to take Ascension and Pentecost seriously and put mission on the summer agenda? I see some interesting possibilities:
- Summer outreach - to families of those who have just celebrated sacraments, but are not coming to Mass - to the disabled, the elderly, young adults, to inactive parishioners and to others in the neighborhood
- Summer faith formation - Vacation Bible School for ALL ages that lasts more than a week - Bible study, book-clubs, marriage enrichment and other gatherings to encourage adults and teens to deepen their faith
- Intergenerational gatherings for all ages - not just parents and children - for prayer and learning
- RCIA Inquiry sessions begin - mid-summer - and run until the Rite of Acceptance/Rite of Welcoming just before Advent.
- Parish service projects to help the poor - not just youth mission trips - but practical local opportunities for adults and families
- Liturgies celebrated with joy and vigor. Choirs would not go on "summer break" - but continue (after all, most of them will still be at Mass every weekend) - perhaps with fewer rehearsals
- Parish festivals, picnics, etc. with a faith theme - not just fun and socialization, but with meaningful prayer/paraliturgies and a call for all to sign up for service and learning opportunities
Some parishes already do some of this, but even they would benefit from being more intentional. What do you think? Do you have more ideas for how a parish can be mission-driven through the summer? How can we keep the upcoming months from simply looking like a vacation from parish activities?