February 2, 2007

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Ordinary Time is packed with signs of fidelity and hope

We have moved beyond the joy of the Christmas season. We have experienced the beginning of another new year. It is hard to believe we are already in the seventh year of the third Christian millennium.

Liturgically, we are celebrating “Ordinary Time.” Most of us recognize Ordinary Time because we are back to seeing green vestments at Sunday Mass. In just a few weeks, we will observe Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season.

In some ways, I believe the true test of our faith may accompany “ordinary” time.

In Advent, we prepare for Christmas with an underlying spirit of building joy.

The Christmas season is one of joyful giving when we allow ourselves to seek the peace that can only come from God, who loves us.

A New Year invariably offers us the opportunity to look for more blessings and perhaps to live a little better life. We hear a lot about New Year’s resolutions which promise a new beginning.

In a few weeks, Lent and the wearing of violet vestments will signal a time of penance and a call to return to the Gospel.

But what happens in Ordinary Time and the return of the green vestments? I want to suggest that this interlude between the Christmas season and Lent is a time when we pay attention to fidelity—fidelity to the practice of our faith, fidelity to prayer as a response to God, who loves us, and fidelity to charity for our neighbor. Ordinary Time and green vestments can be viewed as a time when we bear witness to hope. It is said that the color green is a sign of hope.

An important part of our archdiocesan family is truly a beacon of fidelity and hope. Sunday, Feb. 4, is the World Day for Consecrated Life. Hundreds of religious women and men in our archdiocese live a special witness to the Gospel day in and day out, in Ordinary Time as well as in the seasons of joy and renewal in our Church.

These are women and men who have given their lives to God in a very special way. In a real sense, they have vowed to give their entire lives to God. They live their promises of poverty, chastity and obedience according to the charism of their particular religious order, institute or apostolic society. They are a continuous reminder to all of us that there is a kingdom of God, which is the goal of every human life.

Our consecrated religious are signs of hope and admirable examples of fidelity to the Gospel. We will celebrate consecrated life on Sunday, Feb. 4, at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

The following Sunday, Feb. 11, I will offer Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House for those who are in our archdiocesan deacon formation program.

This is another group of faithful members of our archdiocese who are preparing to become permanent deacons. Their lives of service will be yet another witness of the gift of fidelity and hope in our community of faith. These candidates already are reminders of the fidelity and hope to which we are called in Ordinary Time.

On Sunday, Feb. 18, we celebrate the first of three “Rites of Election,” a welcoming and blessing of those in our archdiocese who are seeking baptism and also those baptized in other denominations who are candidates for confirmation and want to become members of our Catholic community.

In the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, we not only welcome new members to our local Church, we also pray for them and encourage them to live faithfully according to the Gospel. This series of Rites of Election is a profound experience of hope and a very concrete expression of fidelity.

On Tuesday, Feb. 13, there is yet another celebration that signals hope and the practice of fidelity to the Gospel. At Saint Meinrad Seminary, young men will be instituted into the ministries of Reader and Acolyte.

These ministries are antecedent to the diaconate and eventual ordination to the priesthood. The candidates for ministries are bearing witness to their desire to serve God and our Church in a unique and lifelong way. They seek the grace of fidelity to the Word of God and service at the altar.

They signal the hope that is our young Church.

On the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, we are planning a dinner for young women and men who want to explore whether God’s call to holiness and to make a difference might be as consecrated religious or priests. It is always hopeful to be with like-minded youth and young adults who want “to give God a chance.”

The few weeks of wearing green vestments in Church are packed with signs of fidelity and hope. †

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