Ordinary Time, Summertime, and the Sabbath

Two weeks ago, the Easter season came to a conclusion at the end of Pentecost Sunday. In the liturgical calendar, we return to what is known as “ordinary time.” However, for the next two post-Pentecost Sundays we celebrate special solemnities that enrich our re-entry into ordinary time: the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (June 12) and the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (June 19). These “bonus” feast days are a nice transition as we conclude Easter and welcome summertime.

For me, this coming week feels like a new liturgical time as we move on from these feasts, coinciding with the first official days of summer. How should we approach these days of transition? By resting in the Lord spiritually and allowing ourselves to be rejuvenated by the summer warmth and perhaps some vacation time.

Ordinary time does not lessen our obligation to participate in Sunday Mass. Nor does summer mean a vacation from the practice of the faith. Summer can help us reset the importance of our spiritual lives, reminding us that while we might take some “rest” from work, we can use the time to savor the Lord’s Day more fully:

God's action is the model for human action. If God "rested and was refreshed" on the seventh day, man too ought to "rest" and should let others, especially the poor, "be refreshed." The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2172)

My prayer is that this summer we will all have some time of genuine rest and renewal. Rest in the Lord’s goodness. Savor the many blessings we have been given. This experience should lead us to remember the primacy of our Sunday Mass obligation of the Lord’s Day:

The Sunday celebration of the Lord's Day and his Eucharist is at the heart of the Church's life. “Sunday is the day on which the paschal mystery is celebrated in light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2177) 

Our human nature can resist being told we have an “obligation,” but the Lord’s Day and the Sunday obligation are blessings that anchor our spiritual lives.

As you may be aware, before entering the seminary I graduated from law school and practiced law for a few years. As a law school student, the demands of study (particularly in the first year) were intense and almost all consuming. In response to that, I adopted a practice that, with few exceptions, I would take Sunday as a “free day” from the all-consuming routine of study. It was difficult at first to take that pause, but I realized I needed it and if I didn’t have regular time where I could re-focus, I would lose focus. The Lord’s Day and Sunday Mass can help us keep first things first.

As the warmth of summer comes upon us, let’s be recommitted to placing God at the center of our lives, resting in His love for us, and sharing that love with others. Enjoy some “downtime” from the many preoccupations we have, and savor the Lord’s goodness.

Your servant,
Most Reverend Robert J. McClory


Diocese of Gary