Using Ordinary Time to focus on God’s presence
Curious, I looked up the word "ordinary." The first dictionary I checked listed the definition as "no special or distinctive features; normal." Unsatisfied, I reached for another that defined ordinary as "the regular or customary condition or course of things." That suited my purposes for this column much better.
This week we begin the tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. If we adhere to the first definition, we might be tempted to sit back and relax, riding the tide of the recent Easter season by telling ourselves that this is our spiritual vacation. Not so, my friends. Let's look again at that second definition: the regular or customary course of things.
Think about it...we are rarely privileged to see God in extraordinary ways, such as the parting of the sea, the raising of the dead or the feeding of the five thousand. Our live are certainly ordinary compared to Moses or Lazarus. Therein, however, lies the true genius of God. In what we would consider "normal," there we find God most present.
Scratch the surface of that ordinary and we find God in the most extraordinary of ways. That, I believe, is what we are called to do in this Ordinary Time of the liturgical year.
Actually, the ordinary in Ordinary Time comes from the Latin "ordinalis," or our English "ordinal," which refers to specified order of things or rank. Ordinary Time (or in Latin, tempus per annum – time throughout the year) gives us just that, a time without the solemn distractions of seasons, such as Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, to focus on our own relationships with the Holy Trinity.
It's a time when we are called and encouraged to study, reflect upon and pray about the life of Jesus and what his life means for us. When Jesus became human, he did so fully in the ordinary of life. He was raised in a typical Jewish household by Mary and Joseph. He went to weddings and studied in the temple, worrying and exasperating his parents when he stayed behind at a young age.
Jesus shared meals with those some might consider shady and went fishing with his friends. He showed compassion to the sick and he cried at the death of his friend, Lazarus.
The fact that Jesus was incarnated was the most amazing of God's miracles. By contrast, how Jesus lived his life gives credence to just how extraordinary the ordinary can be.
This is the beauty of Ordinary Time – a chance for us to focus on God's abundant love and beauty present in the world. It's a time to pay attention to that which God calls us to do and then find the determination to act on that call.
What we blindly come to think of as unexceptional is truly and miraculously extraordinary. We just have to open our eyes and look for the signs. As nature continues to grow and green – the color of Ordinary Time – so can we. Now is a perfect time to begin.