Thoughts about the Summer Solstice

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

For the past eight years, I have been traveling to downtown Chicago almost every Friday where I teach a Bible Study class at St. Peter's Church in Chicago's Loop. This downtown church is busier on weekdays than it is on Sundays because not many people live in the Loop, but tens of thousands work there. So every day, the staff of St. Peter's offers some sort of enrichment program during the lunch hour. Fridays, the last day of the work week, is devoted to the Sunday Scriptures as a means to help people prepare for Saturday/Sunday worship. Since I have been doing this for more than eight years, I have covered the Sunday Lectionary for Mass nearly three times already. However, there are always surprises, such as last Sunday. When I fired up my computer to retrieve any notes that I had saved on these readings, I discovered that we had not used this particular set of readings for at least nine years. Of course, that meant that I had to spend extra time in preparation that week, but it also meant that once again I was surprised by the Scriptures.

This coming Sunday is another surprise as the Nativity of St. John the Baptist will take center stage for Sunday worship. This is considered a solemnity, the highest ranking kind of feast in the liturgical calendar, and therefore takes precedence over the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

This comes to mind this morning as I realized that as of yesterday, the days will start to get shorter. We have passed the summer solstice. Each day from now to December 21, we will lose a little bit of daylight as the earth begins to shift to the other side of the sun. You might wonder what this has to do with the Sunday Scriptures. There is a connection. Obviously, no one really knows what day of the year was St. John's birthday. However, we celebrate it at this time of the year as a reminder that it was St. John the Baptist who said, "He must increase, I must decrease." As the days grow shorter, we can pray the same mantra. My life is not about me. It is about the One who gave me that life. "I am the Lord, your God. You shall have no other gods before me."

Today we keep the memory of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, two English Roman Catholics who sacrificed their lives rather than compromise their beliefs. The bishops of the United States have declared this day as the beginning of a "Fortnight of Freedom." These two gentlemen understood well that they were to decrease if God was to increase. May the same mantra be our prayer.

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