Saturday, November 13, 2010

Meeting the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

In the Catholic Church, we move through the year observing liturgical seasons.  We have Advent, those four Sundays before Christmas dedicated to our preparation for the coming of the Messiah.  Then we have Christmas, the season in which we celebrate the Incarnation, God become man.  Soon thereafter, we observe the season of Lent beginning with Ash Wednesday.  This is a time for self-examination and reevaluating our relationship with God.  It is a solemn time of atonement and a firm resolve to change our lives.  Then comes the glorious season of Easter, that time when our salvation was won by the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, completing the sacrifice necessary for that action.

But what of the rest of the year?  The year is not made up of one celebration after another.  Often, there is considerable time between celebrations.  On Sunday, November 14, 2010, we mark the last Sunday of this long season called Ordinary Time.

Ordinary Time is any time outside those periods throughout the year designated as feasts or special seasons of observation.  Ordinary Time is fittingly named because, after all, that is where we live. 

Most of us have what we would refer to as ordinary lives.  Our jobs are not extraordinary.  In fact, they seem downright mundane and very often boring.  When we get off work, most of us do not head to some exciting destination where thrills rule the day.   Most head home to some dinner and TV and some evenings perhaps a movie or a concert.  This cycle is repeated day in and day out giving a certain pattern and rhythm to our lives.  And while many of us come to find this pattern annoyingly uneventful, it does form the framework of our lives.

Jesus must have felt the same way.  Don't forget that He was a carpenter who worked for years before beginning His public mission.  He, too, faced the mundane daily chores that we call life.  He, too, knew the frustrations of the work day, the grinding boredom of endless hours spent at His craft.  Yet, His life, too, was framed by this day-to-day activity.

While we encounter our Lord in all seasons of the year, the fact is that we meet Jesus mainly in what we have come to call Ordinary Time.  The Gospel readings at Mass during this season recount the everyday life of the Messiah.  We see Him fishing with His Apostles.  We are there when he speaks with the Samaritan woman at the well after journeying several miles in the intense desert heat of the region seeking a cool drink of water.  We sit on a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee, listening to Him give us guidelines to living called the Beatitudes.  We marvel in wonder and amazement as He teaches us to pray to the Father in heaven with the use of the simple, yet holy and elevating language of the Lord's Prayer.  We sit at the roadside with He and His disciples as He watches an impoverished widow contribute nearly all she has to the Temple.  These are ordinary days in the life of Jesus and that is just how we encounter Him.

As we move through our ordinary days, opportunities arise each and every day to bump into the Savior through our ordinary actions.  Perhaps a co-worker is having a bad time of it at home.  When we reach out to them in kindness, we encounter Jesus the comforter.  Maybe one of our children is having a difficult time in school with bullies.  When we listen to that child and hear their fears, we become Jesus to that child in that moment, listening to the pleas of Martha and Mary on the death of their brother Lazarus.

We meet Christ most frequently in our lives through the ordinary days that we lead.  And those days are elevated by this encounter.  We come to know Jesus in an intimate way.  We have time to form a more personal relationship with Him.  Unlike major celebrations where hoards of people crowd in around the Savior, Ordinary Time allows us to gather at His feet as He continues to teach us through His Holy Spirit.

Look into the eyes of your spouse, your significant other, your brother or sister, or even your best friend and tell yourself that they are just ordinary.  What they do on a daily basis may be ordinary, but they, themselves, are anything but ordinary.  They are unique, special people in our lives so we should learn to treasure them and our time with them just as we would treasure our time with Jesus should He suddenly become physically present to us in the flesh.

Revel in the ordinary times of our lives.  For it is in these ordinary times that we meet the Extraordinary person of Jesus Christ in one another and in our ordinary lives.  There is a great comfort to know that we do not have to have a celebration each time we encounter Jesus in the ordinary.  He is comfortable with us as we go through our daily paces.  Reach out to Him in your ordinary way and experience the Most Extraordinary person you'll ever encounter.  Jesus Christ!