Note: This new weekly column will celebrate the richness of the times and seasons in the Church. Its purpose is to explore themes related to the liturgical year including prayer and scripture, the lives of the saints, the Catechism, and the deep history of Catholic Tradition. In the coming year, it will also look at the changes coming to the Roman Missal.
Ever have one of those moments, as you go through life, when someone comes along and says just the right word at the right time? It's usually when we needed it most!
Or did you ever have a song play on the radio, or in the shuffle of the iTunes library, and you just knew that somehow that song was meant just for you?
A moment of inspiration can make all the difference, for it contains a small blessing.
Tucked deep in the Revised Standard Version translation of the Old Testament book of Proverbs, there's a gem that captures the joy of such a moment:
. . . an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season,
how good it is! ~Proverbs 15:23
When I consider this proverb, I understand the goodness of "a word in season." It can come from God, or through persons, or circumstances. Christians experience this blessing in a very personal way, and a very corporate one.
In my Christian life, I have had many private "God moments" when God reaches out to me through his Word in Sacred Scripture, in prayer, and through the sacraments. But it doesn't stop there.
I've found God's Holy Spirit acting within my social milieu! I've experienced encouraging words from loved ones, from books, from articles I've read online, and yes, even in random pop songs. Each time, God clearly communicates his joy, hope, comfort, healing, guidance, or peace.
God works ceaselessly in a variety of -- and often, surprising -- ways, to aptly "speak" to me about my own pertinent situation, compelling me to continually seek him in every season of life.
Though I've been slow to admit it, God's timing is always perfect. And I marvel at the relevancy of the ancient prophet's words describing God's message to me today: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD"(Is. 55: 8-9).
What's more, a spiritual friend once counseled me that God's timing is never late. And it is in connection to this universal sense of "God's Time" that I wish to explore the corporate experience of "a word in season."
There's a dynamic seasonal patterning to Christian life, just as there is seasonal change in nature.
The Good News is never dormant.
I revel in the fact that the Roman Catholic Church brings a good word, indeed, a biblical word, to every season of the year. Further, the treasury of the Church's collective wisdom -- her 2000-plus years of Sacred Tradition -- and her liturgical calendar of times and seasons pronounce blessing, beatitude, and benediction over us all year long.
Since God entered history as a man, the Church has never failed to tell his story. With seasonal preparations, celebrations, or saints' feast days, the Church never ceases to speak a word in season communicating the richness and beauty of the Deposit of Faith that is hers to guard and to celebrate.
By proclamation and by witness, the Church gives voice to the right word, at just the right time . . . via her dedication to the Word of God in the liturgical cycle of readings, in her sacramental life, in her preaching, in her communion of saints and her saints-in-the-making, in her service to the needs of humanity, and in her catechetical and magisterial teachings that deepen the reception of the Good News.
Together, in sync with the Church, Christians move with the pulse and rhythm of each season; Ordinary Time moves to Advent and Christmas, Lent leads into Easter. And coming full circle in the power of Pentecost, the Spirit then saturates Ordinary Time. Indeed, the worldwide Church breathes the Gospel "in season and out of season" (2 Tim. 4:2).
The Church even speaks a word into every day. The Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours sanctify the ticking of our twenty-four hours. The splendor of the Church lifts the veil of time that we might see the beauty and goodness of truth that is ours to behold: "Now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2).
Ordinary time -- chronos -- redeemed by God's touch becomes extraordinary time -- kairos -- the fullness of time appointed by God for divine purpose.
Throughout the centuries, by the very same touch and word of God, this ancient Church, sanctified by the Holy Spirit that imbues her, remains ever new and ever beautiful. Her glory is being yoked to Christ Himself, even when she carries within herself her weakest, most sinful members, who mar her countenance.For no matter what the season, she applies her eternal truth: "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Rom. 5:20).
The Church beckons and woos to us . . . always with a word in season . . . always appropriate and designed for our benefit . . . and, always based in the joy of the Good News that "the Kingdom of God is at hand" (Mk. 1:15; Cf. Mt. 3:2, 4:17).
In every season, the Church offers us a framework, a plan for living that calls us to holiness and to taste the fruits of our redemption.
And how good it is!