Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Ordinary Does Not Mean Ho-Hum

So, Pentecost done, we resume of Ordinary Time. Ordinary sounds so, well, ordinary, plain, drab, boring. Why would the Church call it "ordinary." That's hardly inspiring.

I want to propose an alternate understanding for this time of year. At Pentecost the Church received the wind its sails that it needs to live out the comission it received from our Lord at the Ascension: to set out into the vast horizons of the world, preaching the Good News and baptizing the whole world. The Church has just re-presented that initial descent of the Holy Spirit in the Pentecost liturgies. Now it is time for us to turn our minds back to the task of evangelizing the world. We are like Jesus' army, or navy perhaps, and we have grown into quite a massive fleet. As St. Paul notes in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12) we cannot all just do whatever we like, but we must each find our role in the broader Body of Christ. Having found our role, we need our marching instructions for how to conduct ourselves. If we were all feet, who would think? If we were all eyeballs, who would walk? Likewise, if we were all teachers, who would pray? If we were all contemplatives, who would defend the teachings and reputation of Holy Church? Our leaders, the successors to the Apostles, have over time developed a set of methods, or procedures, or "ordinances" for figuring out who does what. Some are very exact: Everyone goes to Mass every Sunday and on other obligatory observances, unless grave circumstances intervene. Some ordinances are more vague: "Teach all nations," and we are left a great deal of discretion in determining how to work them out in our day-to-day lives. These ordinances are where we get the name Ordinary Time, I suspect. It is the time when the ordinary Ordinances, without special fasts or feasts, disciplines or dispensations, apply. It is these ordinances that structure our day-to-day life as Christians.

But the work of the apostolate is hardly boring - at least, not if we are putting our hearts and minds into it. Every apostolate has dimensions of prayer, service, and evangelization, although each apostolate will have varying proportions of each, and some dimension may be mostly implicit. Work at a soup kitchen is primarily about feeding the poor, though our love for them should draw them to Christ, and we should saturate all our work with prayer. Printing apologetic tracts is primarily about evangelization, but will be of great service to teachers of the Faith, and should be saturated from beginning to end in prayer. The apostolate is the outward mission of the Church, and is to be conducted primarily by the laity, in cooperation and guided by their pastors.

The apostolate is to be grounded in the spiritual life of each Christian, and every Christian is called to participate. Our spiritual lives, infused with the Faith, Hope, and Love of Jesus by the sacraments, are to be nurtured by solid time spent in prayer, healthy Christian community, and immersion in the Sacred Scriptures. Out of this soil grows a solid plant of apostolate: intercessory prayer, service, evangelization. There is a world out there in dire need of Christ, and only Christians can bring Him to it.

To aid us in our task, the Vatican II Council produced a document Apostolicam Actuositatem, on the apostolate of the laity. I highly recommend reading the medium-sized but easy document. Some people feel awkward about looking for ways to share their love of Jesus with others. Fair enough, and I don't want to judge them because I used to feel that way too. They might even rationalize it by saying that all religions are equal or that they don't want to force their beliefs on someone else yet. They might consider this point, though. If you don't want to share it, you probably don't get it, either.

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