Ordinary Time, again: 10 questions, or maybe 5, and 1 rule
I know the Liturgical Year begins with Advent. But it is at the close of the Christmas Season and our re-entry into Ordinary Time that we begin to realize that we must in some sense struggle through another year as Christians.
I have been thinking about this more seriously than usual on this first day of Ordinary Time in 2023 because one of my grandsons is preparing for Confirmation, and I am blessed and grateful to have been asked to be his sponsor. Part of the preparation calls for the confirmandi to ask their sponsors a series of questions, and the questions are worth reflecting on for all of us:
- What does being a Catholic mean to you?
- What are your favorite ways to live your Catholicism? (the reference here is primarily to devotional practices)
- How do you live your faith? (the reference here is primarily to Christian service)
- How do you grow in your relationship with Christ? Do you have a specific plan each day for prayer?
- Do you have someone in your life who has mentored you to be stronger in your relationship with Christ?
- We are all called to be holy—what does that mean to you? How can we live in this world and still strive for holiness?
- Who is your Confirmation saint and why did you choose that saint?
- If you have ever struggled to believe in God, explain why you struggled and how you kept your faith?
- Can you recommend a book, a website, a podcast, or a blog that might help me (the candidate for confirmation) to grow in my relationship with our Blessed Lord?
- Will you pray for me (the candidate), starting today?
Such questions can be the occasion for serious reflection as much in the sponsor as in the candidate, and it is clear that they are written with both in mind. My first thought on reading them was this: As far as my own spiritual maturity at the time of Confirmation goes, I’d like to go back and start over. And my second thought was that the graces I received in Confirmation are still pushing me into a deeper relationship with Christ and the Holy Trinity (not to mention Our Lady, my guardian angel, certain special saints, and the Church) even today, in the middle of my eighth decade.
If I were asking a Catholic adult these questions—that is, one who has received all the sacraments for which he or she is eligible and who still identifies as a Catholic—I would probably reduce and reshape the questions to these five:
- Do you, at a minimum, accept all the teachings of the Catholic Church and fulfill all the laws of the Church, including attending Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and confessing your sins at least once a year?
- Do you try to discern bad habits and sinful attitudes which you have delayed bringing into the full light of Christ—moral weaknesses, worldly attachments, reluctance to be identified as a Christian?
- In addition to the natural assistance you provide to others, do you remember to pray regularly for them, especially family members and friends who are in material, bodily or (most importantly) spiritual danger?
- Have you deliberately and consistently sought God’s will to discern how he wants you to pursue your life and vocation in order to fulfill the specific purposes He has in mind for you?
- Has your interior life developed to the point that you are more or less continuously aware of the Presence of God, frequently lifting your mind and heart to Him in interior conversation and prayer?
I won’t include a question about whether you’ve caught yourself talking to your guardian angel yet, or any other optional item, no matter how good. Instead, I want now to ask this: If we can answer all five of those questions affirmatively, how should we feel about ourselves?
And I answer as follows:
First, we should recognize that the Sacrament of Confirmation has borne fruit in us. And we should be immensely grateful for that.
But as soon as we recognize this, we should reflect on one particular saying of Jesus Christ:
Does [the master] thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” [Lk 17:9-10]
In other words, it is we who ought to be grateful, not God. Or, as St. Paul put it in his first letter to the Corinthians (4:7): “What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?”
Welcome back to Ordinary Time. Our task with each new day is to start accepting and sharing God’s generosity all over again, understanding that we really are only unworthy servants—but in the certainty of a supernatural hope: Without a single shred of human desperation.
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Posted by: TheJournalist64 -
Jan. 10, 2023 6:09 PM ET USA
The liturgical year is a mess. We used to get, every year, Epiphany, then Baptism a week later, and finally the unnamed Sunday when we heard the Cana Gospel. We could sing "Songs of Thankfulness and Praise" with understanding. Today, Or'nery time (said in TX) crashed on us with insensitive force. We get no time to savor the threefold revelation of Christ except in year 3. I do hate the new calendar.