by Rev. John Montag, SJ, Associate Pastor at Holy Spirit & St. Mary Magdalen
This Sunday, we enter the second week of Ordinary Time. Perhaps you’re thinking, ‘well, things pretty much returned to ordinary just after New Year’s Day.’ While that’s true, that’s not what the Church means by ‘ordinary.’
Ordinary Time refers to a season of the Church, just like Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. We might think of it as ‘leftover time,’ the days and weeks when we don’t have anything important to celebrate or look forward to, but this would be a big mistake. Ordinary Time has as much meaning for us as the other seasons of the liturgical year.
The season has two parts. The first, of course, is the one we are in now, between the Baptism of the Lord and Ash Wednesday. The second part begins with Pentecost, about half a year from now, and continues until the end of the Liturgical year, the week after Christ The King. Its color, green, signifies hope, and growth.
Why do we have a time we call ordinary? in English and Spanish, ‘ordinary’ suggests run-of-the-mill, unexciting, bland, routine, even insignificant. But that’s not what the word means from its beginning. ‘Ordinary’ comes from the Latin, ‘ordus,’ which is where we get words such as ‘order,’ and this is a clue to the meaning the Church has. In Ordinary Time, we are ‘ordered’ by grace to Jesus. We focus on Jesus of Nazareth, in order to become more like him in our ordinary, daily lives. For us Christians, what is ordinary becomes extraordinary in Christ. We seek out ways to order our lives more completely to him, in all things—small and large, simple and complex, easy and difficult, joyful and discouraging. When we do bring our lives ever more under him, we begin to be able to find God in everything.
That is what this time is about. And for this reason, the readings at Mass focus on the life of Jesus during his public ministry. We are invited to follow him daily, through the words and perspectives of the evangelists, and to find ourselves as his companions, each of us a disciple. It is a wonderful invitation to overcome our selfish selves, our ego, in order to let go of our rivalries, our resentments, our violent or selfish desires, and to open our hearts joyfully to every person we meet.