The Church gives us special times and seasons in which the Liturgy emphasizes one aspect or another of Jesus’ person and mission, so that we can derive its special value for life. Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter have their appeal; but what for “Ordinary Time,” which we have just entered for a handful of weeks? What’s the appeal to Ordinary Time? More than we may appreciate.
The diversity of liturgical seasons corresponds with the diversity of foods. In any given congregation, we can expect to have some fans of Chinese food. These people may enjoy reading the contents of the fortune cookies they get with their meal. One seminary classmate used to save every fortune he got. I keep one in my wallet: “Listen to everyone. Ideas come from everywhere.” Another I found in a humor book, but received it as if it were meant for me: “You appeal to a small, select group of confused people.” And then there’s a famous fortune: “May you live in interesting times.”
While most children might appreciate the mystery and excitement in their lives, adults might strive to avoid it whenever possible, in favor of routine and predictability. It seems, however, that much of life is “interesting,” meaning, laden with situations, cares, heartaches, obsessions, illness, and all the rest: nothing ordinary about it! We may jump from one “interesting” event to another without savoring the pause of quiet routine and recognizing God’s presence in it.
Inside all the diverse moments of our lives—the failures and the successes, the joys and the sorrows—there is God’s invitation to deeper communion with us. In the first of his two letters to the Corinthians, Saint Paul reminds them that they have been “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy.” It is at once a “given,” that they are holy, and a “task,” that they are to become holy. Life’s “interesting” events can obscure our spiritual vision, so that we cannot keenly perceive Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” If we are unable to perceive Him, it is all the more difficult to be “a light to the nations” that carries salvation to everyone in our path.
Later in John’s Gospel, the Baptist declares, “He must increase; I must decrease.” This is the epitome of holiness: allowing Christ to be evident in your thoughts, words, and actions.