Letter from Fr. David
Dear Friends in Christ,
This week the Church has entered once again into what it calls Ordinary Time. Looking up the word ordinary, one can find many definitions of the word. The following are the most frequent usages for ordinary in our common parlance:
“of no special quality or interest; commonplace; unexceptional
- plain or undistinguished
- somewhat inferior or below average; mediocre
- customary; usual; normal”
— taken from www.dictionary.com
At the beginning of Ordinary Time I find it instructive to mention that this Church season, which spans nearly two-thirds of the entire Church year, is NOT any of those things. Ordinary Time is NOT unexceptional, it is NOT undistinguished, it is NOT mediocre in any way, and it should NOT be viewed as merely the “normal” time of year. One might ask then, if this is NOT what Ordinary Time is, then what IS it?
To help us answer that question, we must examine the accurate definition of ordinary as applied to Ordinary Time. For the Church, the term ordinary is derived from the Latin word “ordo”, which is defined from Medieval Latin as “series, row, order” (taken from www.dictionary.com.) These descriptions can call up other useful terms, such as sequence, or cycle, or even circle. Considering these definitions for “ordo”, we can deduce that Ordinary Time from the Church’s perspective is meant not as an unexceptional or plain time, but rather as an ordered time, as a sequential time, and as a cyclical time. We realize that Ordinary Time means something entirely different than what our common English use of ordinary might indicate.
Indeed, what is commemorated during Ordinary Time is in fact the sequence or cycle of Jesus’ adult life from immediately after his baptism until his arrival in Jerusalem to consummate the Paschal Mystery. Ordinary Time presents in a very orderly fashion Jesus’ ministry of teaching, healing, forgiving, and forming disciples – in short his mission of establishing the Church. As we listen to the Scriptures and celebrate Eucharist during this Ordinary Time season, we should always have that one goal in mind, namely building and strengthening the Church.
As a final point, in following the sequence of teaching and events in Jesus’ adult life I for one find nothing “ordinary” about them, that is nothing unexceptional or plain or usual. Jesus is extraordinary from the get go! Already in our weekday Mass Gospels we hear Jesus speaking with authority and working miracles in such a way that “amazes”, “astonishes”, and even “frightens” the disciples and the crowds. This surprising tone is established at the beginning of his ministry and will pursue him at his every step until the very end. Nothing usual here!
Happy Ordinary Time! I pray during this season you will continually be surprised and amazed by Jesus’ exceptional and astonishing love for you!
How to Enter the New Year
If you’re reading this, you lived to see the new year. This is no small matter! Your life makes a difference in the universe, whether or not you embrace your God-given power. May this prayer accompany your initial steps into the future.
God of all time,
help us enter the New Year quietly,
thoughtful of who we are to ourselves and to others,
mindful that our steps make an impact
and our words carry power.
May we walk gently.
May we speak only after we have listened well.
Creator of all life,
help us enter the New Year reverently,
aware that you have endowed
every creature and plant, every person and habitat
with beauty and purpose.
May we regard the world with tenderness.
May we honor rather than destroy.
Lover of all souls,
help us enter the New Year joyfully,
willing to laugh and dance and dream,
remembering our many gifts with thanks
and looking forward to blessings yet to come.
May we welcome your lavish love.
May we cast off the small, vindictive god our fears have made.
May the grace and peace of Christ bless you now and in the days ahead.