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Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

"But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear ... " (Mt 13:1-23).

Does anybody know what Vatican office I need to contact to change the liturgical name for this coming Sunday, July 16? See, just calling it “the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time” doesn’t bring out its significance on the calendar for such a time as this. Instead, it deserves the designation: “The Last Sunday in Preparation Time.” Preparation for what? The 2023 National Black Catholic Congress (NBCC XIII).

Here’s why I think so. The Congress and its theme, “Write the Vision: A Prophetic Call to Thrive,” offer a dynamic, providential dialogue with the readings for the Holy Mass this Sunday.

For instance, a solid image for the “thrive” in the Congress theme is the earth being “fertile and fruitful.” And in the first reading, God speaks through Isaiah to say,

“Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful,

… so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it” (Is 55:10ab,11; emphasis added).

Whether you’ll be at Congress XIII or somewhere else striving to thrive by doing God’s will July 20–23, I invite us all to pray that God’s prophetic word will go forth from his mouth and rush upon that gathering. May God’s message comfort, confront, bless, blast, stir up, and strike down. May it teach folks’ minds and tenderize their hearts. Sisters and brothers, pray and hope and trust that the Lord’s words—amplified over the sound systems or whispered in the silence of participants’ souls—will not return to him void but shall achieve the end for which he sends it to NBCC XIII.

Next, consider how Covid forges a connection between the Congress and the second reading, Romans 8:18-23. The pandemic threw the NBCC off its intended five-year cycle; the last one was in July 2017. With that in mind, I see how the 1st-Century letter from St. Paul to the Romans connects to the following part of the 21st-Century “Welcome Letter for NBCC XIII” from NBCC Executive Director Valerie E. Washington:

“… we want to acknowledge the difficulties we have all experienced … over the past few years…. “In addition to inflicting many losses, the upheaval of the COVID pandemic made planning for this event incredibly difficult as government policies lifted, then were reinstated, and basically fluctuated from day to day, leaving us to wonder whether we could or should contract with a venue for our gathering.

“Finally, as Catholic Christians, we simply had to put our trust in do anything else would be fruitless! At that point planning became much easier. Things we saw as obstacles became opportunities, and prayer has produced progress in ways that we could never have foreseen, the fruits of which will be, we believe, the best Congress gathering yet.”

This welcome echoes St. Paul’s famous declaration:

“Brothers and sisters: I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Rom 8:18).

Oh, what glory will God reveal not only during Congress XIII but in the “fertile and fruitful” harvest it will yield because we’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord through the Congress’ one-year delay and all the other heartbreak and havoc Covid (among other sufferings) has caused!

Finally, our Gospel for the “Last Sunday in Preparation Time” says, “Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea . . . [and] large crowds gathered around him” (Mt. 13:1-2). Some traditions say that this teaching occurred at a site called Sower’s Cove, just under a mile south of Capernaum along the shore of a large lake, the body of water called the Sea of Galilee.

Along the shore of a body of water called the Potomac River, just over a mile south of the Washington, DC, city line, Jesus will be present when large crowds gather at a site called National Harbor July 20-23 for NBCC XIII.

What vision will Jesus reveal? What words will he impart? What revival will he fuel through the Congress’ soulful celebrations of Holy Eucharist? What form will his “Prophetic Call to Thrive” take? However, Jesus teaches them, Congress-goers can embrace—as spoken to them—his words in this weekend’s Gospel: "… blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear” (Mt. 13:16).

Author: Pastor, Fr. Charles “Chuck” Wood, St Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church – A friendly, Christ-centered parish in the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon ( Member of the African American Catholic community of Oregon, outreach organization.

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