The extraordinariness of the ordinary!


Yesterday, the Catholic Church of the Latin Rite returned to the liturgical season known as Ordinary Time. It would be easy to presume that this season on the liturgical calendar is called "ordinary" because it seems that nothing extra-ordinary is celebrated on these Sundays. But that's not the case. “Ordinary” in this instance is actually intended in the sense of ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc.) or the weeks of the year “in order,” rather than as a characteristic of liturgical time that is drab or mundane. But the portion of Ordinary Time ahead of us has a festal beginning. Every year the Sunday after Pentecost is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (popularly known as Trinity Sunday) and the second Sunday after Pentecost is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (popularly known as Corpus Christi).

A quote reads: “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” What is the little ‘extra’ which makes the difference in your life? Having my head stuck in books for most of the past year, it has been good over the past few days to just breathe in my surroundings and visit some of the natural beauty spots around Ottawa. For me, beauty continues to speak a language of its own which does not necessarily need words or vocabulary, precisely because it belongs to the sphere of the simple. My quest for ‘extra’ continues, or translated into biblical terms, the journey towards embracing Jesus’ invitation in John 10:10 ‘I have come that you may life in abundance’, continues!

That said, extraordinary things happen in Ordinary time too. People are born and people die. Wars begin and wars end, and wars go on and on. Tornados and earthquakes happen and end. Miracles come in silently, softly, transforming the lives of unsuspecting people. People shed the extraordinary because they have been wearied by life and settle for the ordinary. Ironically, when travel and the media have blown all horizons wide open, our own inner horizons seem to have become narrower and our vision contracted. How can we find again the seeing eye and the feeling touch? The reality of “time and eternity” is one that few people these days choose to contemplate, because we are so distracted. Technology and entertainment have become the things people chase when they are not fulfilling their obligations and taking care of their responsibilities.

Over the past few days, I have had a strong sense that the Lord is gifting me with an extraordinary experience by being here in Canada. It is a new call to live out my discipleship as a Disciple of the Divine Master, not necessarily in the conventional way. I am discovering that discipleship means living in a new way. Taking up the cross means living at least in part in an alternative reality, one in which the freedom of love, forgiveness and grace  prevails in place of the normal arrangements of domination, retribution and exchange. It feels like a return to the Celtic spirituality of my forefathers where "Celtic spirituality was a practice in which ordinary people in their daily lives took the tasks that lay to hand but treated them sacramentally, as pointing to a greater reality which lay beyond them." (Esther de Waal).  The Good News that God’s extraordinary life comes to us in seemingly ordinary ways is the ongoing lesson of Ordinary Time.

Ordinary time can be misleading. It seems to suggest that life and faith carry on as usual and they do to an extent. The truth however is quite the contrary when the readings of the season are taken into account. Just look at today’s first reading from the Book of Sirach: “All wisdom comes from the LORD and with him it remains forever, and is before all time. The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain, the days of eternity: who can number these? Heaven's height, earth's breadth, the depths of the abyss: who can explore these? Before all things else wisdom was created; and prudent understanding, from eternity. To whom has wisdom's root been revealed? Who knows her subtleties?” Nothing very ordinary about all of that! We live in a world which is both ordinarily extraordinary and extraordinarily ordinary if we can open our minds and hearts to welcome it.

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