Seasonal notes

July seasonal notes

Ordinary Time

Notes, important dates, and other material for July.

Notes for Cycle A

ON WHAT DOES the satisfaction of our hearts depend? On Christ, totally; and on our own choices, ultimately. Matthew’s gospel stresses both our utter reliance on what Christ offers as well as our responsibility to do something with what we’re given. First comes the call to lay our burdens down: Jesus promises to take them up for us. But next we are reminded that, while the sower scatters seed everywhere, only in receptive ground will the seed bear fruit. Christ’s work, our work—we see how they go hand in hand.

We are then treated to the kingdom parables, all of which reveal what is available to those who have their priorities in order. The kingdom will not take us by force: We have to seek it, make room for it, and desire it. We get a demonstration of the kingdom in action at the end of the month, when Jesus takes a small offering of loaves and fishes and provides an abundance for a multitude. God doesn’t require much—a mustard seed of faith, a modicum of self-surrender—to bring forth wonder.

GOD'S REIGN is the main message of Matthew’s gospel, and it’s central to our readings this month. This kingdom is not at all like the principalities and powers we read about in the papers and see on the news. God’s reign uses power differently, balances justice with clemency, prefers peace to violence, and values the small over the great. Never in the history of humankind has a kingdom been run this way! How can it operate? Moreover, how can we get there from here? Entrance is not to be gained on foot but through the eyes. We can’t get there by changing where we are but rather how we see. And the new sight involved in the kingdom isn’t something we adopt on our own: It comes by way of revelation. It’s not a particularly esoteric revelation, either. God’s word is whispered to prophets, planted in the dirt, buried like treasure, rising like bread. You can dredge it up from the sea or find it in the storehouse of tradition and innovation. Seeking the kingdom? Let your eyes be opened!

Notes for Cycle B

FULL-TIME ORDINARY TIME resumes here. We continue our journey through Mark’s gospel, which takes us through Galilee, as Jesus visits his hometown, and around the lake, where the need of the people is often greater than their faith. In a strange omission, our month winds up with John’s recounting of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, not Mark’s. Mark is at work developing a series of comparisons: how people accept or reject the ministry of Jesus and his disciples. When the Teacher passes out food to share and to spare in the multiplication of loaves and fishes, however, no one seems to reject that offer. We can see that the “smorgasbord” approach to religion was alive and well in the first century, too! Food, yes; faith, no. It happens in the best of churches.

ORDINARY TIME provides a smorgasbord for the preacher. We see Jesus amazed by the great faith of the sick who come to him for healing near the Galilee. Meanwhile he is confronted by the cynicism in his own hometown, where marvels are rendered all but impossible. Jesus trusts his disciples enough to send them out on a mission of their own, which is highly successful. But he also encourages them to rest, because the need of the world remains pressing and will not go away anytime soon. As if to underline that point, the last story of the month shows the outsized hunger of the crowd that Jesus handily feeds. Paralleling the gospels is a wide variety of Hebrew scripture from Wisdom, Ezekiel, Amos, Jeremiah, and Kings respectively—something for everybody. And we finish up a run of Pauline readings from 2 Corinthians and move on to Ephesians, the great manifesto about the church, which receives more coverage than any other epistle in the lectionary.

Notes for Cycle C

HOW MIGHT we find peace for our troubled world? How do we know what God wants of us? What sort of welcome can we provide for God in our midst? How should we ask for what we need? These are the workaday questions of the spiritual life, and during Ordinary Time, Luke addresses such issues for the disciple on the journey.

The central concern of chapter 10 is the church’s mission: not what the church is, but what it ought to be doing. Merely defining church is territory many of us retraced repeatedly in catechism class. But the second emphasis is more to the point: If we are church, we are necessarily people on the move. Where we are going is up to God, but how we get there is entirely up to us. Luke’s journey theme conveys the urgent need for progress in the spiritual life. We can’t sit on the deposit of faith or satisfy ourselves with being “the one true church,” a smugness that growth in wisdom and grace cannot support.

CALL AND MISSION are two big themes for the upcoming weeks of proclamation. Some are called to particular aspects of leadership, like the prophets and the 72. Others are called simply to discern, to trust—and to behave.

Conforming our lives to the life of Christ may not sound like much of a mission. It doesn’t require us to move to Africa or to risk persecution in the Far East. But entering fully into the mystical Body of Christ does accomplish two very important things. It identifies us deeply with the source of justice, truth, and life. And it eliminates our being part of the problem by making us part of the solution. And if it’s challenge, adventure, or heroism you’re looking for, conforming yourself to Christ offers all of that and more. As the Letter to the Colossians puts it, “The hope for glory is Christ in you!” Try being Christ for others for just one day. Then tell me it’s not mission enough for a lifetime.

“If you do not wish for His kingdom, don’t pray for it. But if you do, you must do more than pray for it; you must work for it.”
—John Ruskin (1819-1900), Victorian author

July calendar

Canada Day  On this date in 1867, the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia came together to form a federation under the name of Canada, which has since grown to 10 provinces and two territories. The legal holiday of Dominion Day was established in 1879. Dominion Day became Canada Day in 1982.

Independence Day  We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the president of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace . . .
—From Archbishop John Carroll’s prayer for the nation, November 10, 1791

“It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community. . . .

“The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community.”
—Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2239 and 2242

“God of love, Father of us all, in wisdom and goodness you guide creation to fulfillment in Christ your Son. Open our hearts to the truth of his gospel, that your peace may rule in our hearts and your justice guide our lives. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.”

For resources on faithful Catholic citizenship, direct people to

“Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.”
—George Washington

“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”
—William Faulkner

Saint Swithin’s Day  Look to the skies on this July version of Groundhog Day. Saint Swithin was a ninth-century Bishop of Winchester in England, and legend has it that as he lay on his deathbed, he asked to be buried out of doors, where he could be walked and rained on. His wish was granted, but after nine years the monks attempted to move his remains to a shrine inside the cathedral. A heavy rainstorm on the day of the transfer, July 15, led to the belief that if on “St. Swithin’s Day, if it does rain/Full forty days, it will remain./St Swithin’s Day, if it be fair/For forty days, t’will rain no more.”

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