Seasonal notes

October seasonal notes

Ordinary Time

Notes, important dates, and other material for October.

Notes for Cycle A

THE GOSPEL MOVES like a spotlight across the face of the church this month. First we look at God’s role in choosing, planting, and nurturing those who participate in the holy vineyard. God does everything right by the vineyard, but does the yield reflect these efforts? Next, the gospel highlights the selection process itself. The invitation is surprisingly generous and far-reaching, but there is a shocking lack of interest in what’s being offered. The spotlight moves to those outside the vineyard, foreign powers like Cyrus and Caesar. Even they participate in God’s plan—sometimes better than God’s own people do! The role of God’s people is made crystal clear: Like the God we serve, our task is to love those who are given to us, starting with our Maker but moving naturally in the direction of our neighbor and the stranger in need. Finally, the spotlight rests on the leaders of the religious enterprise. Are they furthering God’s plan, or functioning as obstacles and contradictions to it?

TO THE CHURCH FATHERS Matthew’s gospel was the manual for church leadership. It presents Jesus in the role of the great teacher, upholding and surpassing the instructions of Moses. But when we think of religious instruction manuals today, we imagine heavily structured volumes: catechisms, textbooks, ecclesial documents, or, heaven help us, canon law.

The Gospel of Matthew does not fit into that lineup at all. This month Jesus teaches by telling stories, playing with an old song from prophecy, and taking an unfriendly public quiz administered by his rivals. The format of his instruction is far from uniform, and nowhere near tedious. Jesus knows what the rest of us forget sometimes: Every moment is potentially a catechetical moment. And in the vast yawning ignorance of a world hungry to know the truth—a world spoon-fed nonsense and forgetfulness regularly in the media—how can we do less than attempt to bring a little light into every encounter?

Notes for Cycle B

MARK'S LESSONS IN DISCIPLESHIP continue through the month. We are taught to recognize and receive the spirit of the Kingdom. We are warned to avoid the perils of those who are rich in the world but poor in the freedom to follow. We learn about greatness in the kingdom, and how sharing the cup of Christ is not the usual sort of worldly honor. We gain, like Bartimaeus who winds up in our company on the final Sunday, a new way of seeing the world that requires a response—a movement—even a commitment—from those who receive this vision. Most who were healed by Jesus throughout his ministry ran home at once to reclaim the lives they had lost. Bartimaeus does not look back with his new eyes, but forward into whatever future included Jesus. This is a wonderful lesson for the church on a journey into Kingdom Coming.

THE GOSPEL OF DISCIPLESHIP continues to unpack its useful but not always comfortable lessons. For one thing, it’s not a good month for a particular disciple named John. First, he’s caught fuming about a man who’s casting out demons without a license from Jesus. Later in the month, he and his brother James will be asking for special perks they are fairly certain they deserve. We tend to pick on Peter and Thomas as the disciples who don’t always get it, but clearly they had plenty of company in the ranks of the Twelve.

And outside of that group as well: The Pharisees, learned as they were, show their ignorance during an interrogation about divorce that gets away from them. A law-abiding man comes before Jesus with great reverence asking for advanced advice about the way of holiness—and gets it, much to his chagrin. In fact, all through the month, the person who comes off the best is the one most folks would have written off at once: a blind man who sees well enough to know that Jesus is the cure for what ails him. He becomes the last and best disciple.

Notes for Cycle C

WHAT CHARACTERISTICS are to be encouraged in those seeking the reign of God? This month we hear about quite a few of them. The gospel lineup starts with faith, a gift from God that only requires our engagement of it. A little goes a long way, or so Jesus tells his disciples who make the mistake of looking for quantity. Gratitude is also on the list, as a singular leper demonstrates, in what was surely one of the most astonishing hours of his life. Next, persistence in prayer and for the cause of righteousness is amply reinforced by the story of a widow who wouldn’t stand down before a powerful adversary. Humility and a clear-eyed view of ourselves comes highly recommended by a tax collector who had reason to be amazed by God’s mercy. And at the end of the month, Zacchaeus reminds us that enthusiasm counts, and the willingness to take a risk. Most of all, his experience reveals that conversion is required when the truth about ourselves becomes crystal clear.

LUKE WANTS TO TELL US a few things. They are simple lessons, easy to teach and hard to learn. First, you don’t need to get any holier than you are. You just have to get serious about being holy. Second, give thanks for what you receive. That means all of it, even what you may initially want to claim as something earned or otherwise achieved. Third: pray, pray, pray. It doesn’t matter how; just do it.

Finally, God likes humility more than purity, so forget about deserving God’s attention and get on your knees.

Luke’s preferred teaching method is storytelling, so one way or another the story gets told or enacted and the punch line is always the point. Children can tell you the message, but it’s the incorporation of these truths that becomes so monstrously difficult. The devil, according to Luke, is not in the details. It’s in the hardened heart, so let’s start with the heart and tunnel our way through to the light.

October calendar

World Teachers' Day  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) inaugurated October 5 as World Teachers’ Day in 1994 to commemorate the joint signing of the UNESCO/Internation Labour Organizartion recommendation concerning the status of teachers in 1966. UNESCO intends World Teachers’ Day to draw attention to the contribution teachers make to education and development. More than 100 countries observe World Teachers’ Day.

Respect Life Sunday  As part of the U.S. bishops’ annual respect life program, inaugurated each year on the first Sunday of October, they suggest some pastoral steps parishes can take, such as developing a list of parishioners who are chronically ill or disabled, and who would benefit from help with chores, a daily phone call, shopping, transportation to doctors, or just a few new friends; encouraging parishioners to volunteer with a local program to assist the dying and their families; beginning a parish-based ministry to pregnant women and their children; compiling information about good local pregnancy services or post-abortion healing and reconciliation programs; and starting fundraising programs for women in financial need during their pregnancies.

World Mission Sunday  Pope Pius XI instituted Mission Sunday for the universal church in 1926. World Mission Sunday celebrates the catholicity of the church and the solidarity of Christians around the world and their responsibility for evangelization. It asks Catholic communities and parishes around the world to offer our prayers and material help to those in countries where the church is new or poor.

World Mission Sunday, in this year dedicated to the Eucharist, helps us to better understand the “eucharistic” sense of our life . . . . Following [Jesus’] example we too are called to offer our life for our brothers and sisters, especially those most in need. . . . In this way, while the Eucharist helps us to understand more fully the significance of mission, it leads every individual believer, the missionary in particular, to be ‘bread, broken for the life of the world.’”
—Pope John Paul II

“World Mission Day, which seeks to heighten awareness of the missions as well as to collect funds for them, is an important date in the life of the church, because it teaches how to give: as an offering made to God, in the Eucharistic celebration and for all the missions of the world.”
—Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio

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