Happy New Year!
I expect readers will ask themselves, “O.K., Dan, you have gone around the bend on this one! It is not yet December, let alone New Year’s Eve.”
Well, it is a new year for the Church, at any rate, Advent is the start of the new liturgical year. We will have moved into the next set of readings. For any non-Catholics who may be reading this, as well as for people just wishing to expand their knowledge, there are four Gospel writers ( Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John ). These writers are each used in different liturgical cycles. Year “A” is for the Gospel of Matthew which is used during Ordinary Time ( a period in which there is no seasonal celebration, such as Advent, Lent, etc ), the “B” cycle for Mark, the “C” for Luke and John is always used during Lent.
The Committee on Divine Worship within the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) has released the calendar for this liturgical year:
PRINCIPAL CELEBRATIONS OF THE LITURGICAL YEAR 2017
First Sunday of Advent November 27, 2016
Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017
The Ascension of the Lord [Thursday] May 25, 2017
Pentecost Sunday, June 4, 2017
The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ June 18, 2017
First Sunday of Advent December 3, 2017
CYCLES — LECTIONARY FOR MASS
Sunday Cycle YEAR A , November 27, 2016 to November 26, 2017
Weekday Cycle CYCLE I, January 10, 2017 to February 28, 2017 June 5, 2017 to December 2, 2017
June 5, 2017 to December 2, 2017
Sunday Cycle YEAR B December 3, 2017 to November 25, 2018
The cycle of weekday Mass readings is in only two cycles, I & II. When the daily and Sunday Mass readings are combined, the congregation is exposed to the greatest part of the Bible within three years as each ( Sunday ) Mass contains readings from the Old Testament, Psalms, the Gospel and the New Testament, weekday Masses have fewer readings.
So, back to New Year’s, here we are at the start of a new liturgical year, and just as with the secular calendar and the “traditional” New Year’s, we have the opportunity to make some resolutions or mid-course corrections we may wish for our lives.
At the start of the secular year, many people make one or more resolutions to remind themselves of things they might wish to change, drop a few pounds, cut back the workday to 9 hours from 10, take up a hobby, etc., etc. At the start of a new liturgical year, we have the same opportunity. I will be discussing only two items from the myriad items available to us.
New Year’s Resolutions
If I may suggest a new year’s resolution, I would suggest that it be resolved to spend 2 or 3 more minutes in prayer every day than is currently spent in prayer. That way, the reader need not feel as if I am asking that a Holy Hour be made each and every day, especially given a quote from an Archbishop of New York. “It is not particularly difficult to find thousands who will spend two or three hours a day in exercising, but if you ask them to bend their knees to God in five minutes of prayer, they protest that it is too long.” ― Fulton J. Sheen
All I am suggesting is 2 or 3 minutes more than you currently spend in prayer. If you currently spend 18 to 20 minutes a day in prayer, please consider expanding it to 20 to 25 minutes. If you currently spend no time in daily prayer, I am asking that you consider adding 2 minutes each day to your routine.
If spontaneous prayer is not “your thing”, no issue. There are multiple on-line resources that offer daily meditations or reflections, the bulk of which are probably only 2 or 3 minutes in length. Add one each day, and in no time, you will be amazed at the random times that a topic or thought presented during your reflection will surface during the day.
If you have no other resource immediately available to you, the USCCB has on their website the daily readings to the Mass of that day. An Old Testament passage, a Psalm, and a Gospel passage can be explored in a matter of a couple of minutes each day. Again, having opened the door, it will surprise you how frequently these readings may surface again in your thoughts during the day.
What To Do With All of the Extra Time
You will recall a bit earlier in this article, one of the secular resolutions may have been to cut back on the work day from 10 hours to 9 hours. This will translate into 4 or 5 hours per week, and perhaps 16 or more hours per month. It is my suggestion that you take some tiny portion of this additional time and help your brother in need. Perhaps donating time at a food pantry one Saturday each month for 3 or 4 hours may be a great way to start.
Perhaps volunteering at your child’s school, perhaps helping do the lawns around the church, perhaps helping sort clothing at the St Vincent de Paul store, perhaps some other way to use a little bit of the extra time that the secular resolution provided. “Once a man ceases to be of service to his neighbor, he begins to be a burden to him.” ― Fulton J. Sheen
It is the start of a new liturgical year, what better time to begin, or add to, a daily reflection? What better time to begin, or add to, a service project?
Welcome to the liturgical year of 2017. Happy New Year.