And yet if we dig deeper into the Gospel Readings for Ordinary Time – we see what amazing value and practical application they have for our “ordinary” lives.
The term “Ordinary” is a misnomer if we define it by our customary use of the word. However, the liturgical term “ordinary” simply refers to the ordering or counting of Sundays.
Every year there are a total of thirty-four Sundays in Ordinary Time.
Ordinary Time is divided into two periods: Sundays 1 through 7 take place between Christmas and Lent. Sundays 8 through 34 take place between Pentecost and Advent and contain a number of significant feasts. Both periods give us an opportunity to delve more deeply into the day to day life in the ministry of Jesus.
The Gospel readings for Sundays in Ordinary Time are basically the first three Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke – laid out on a three year cycle with Matthew (year A), Mark (year B) and Luke (year C). (The Gospel of John is not neglected since it is read during Lent and Easter seasons and also used to supplement Mark in Year B).
If we take a slow, meditative walk through the readings of this first period of Ordinary Time, we have the privilege of seeing Jesus Christ as the world first began to see him in all of his uniqueness. And it is here that we begin to see the real Jesus who defies the caricatures of Him that are so prevalent in our culture.
The vignettes presented in the gospels during Ordinary Time provide a lesson to us about how to approach our own situations in our own day to day lives.
Jesus is more complex than we realize. On the one hand, he was genial and approachable. In a time when religious people weren’t generally approachable we find a rabbi who actually seeks people out. We see how he valued people and treated them with dignity –especially those not used to being treated with dignity.
We see a Jesus who demonstrates the practical dimensions of compassion as shown in instructions he gives to people after a healing has occurred. But even so, he never heals someone just for show and his concern is always more for the soul than for the body.
On the other hand we see a Jesus who is confrontational. We see his knack for exasperating both his followers and detractors alike because he is uncompromising when it comes to the truth. He seems to confound nearly everyone because he is nothing that anyone could have quite expected. He is fully human yet he does not fit any mold and he is perfectly comfortable breaking social conventions.
He rebukes his disciples for lack of faith and warns of the consequences of complacency when it comes to God’s demands. Then he takes on the powerful and the well-connected, and even in the first chapters of Mark for example, we can sense where this will lead.
The themes covered during Ordinary Time such as service and sacrifice, what it means to love our neighbor, and the reality of the narrow way are foundational in that they relate to how we live our daily, i.e. “ordinary” lives.
What a privilege to sit at the feet of the master as we are instructed in the words from the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. For nearly two thousand years these thoughts have left their imprint on the hearts and minds of humanity.
But not enough.
Just as Jesus walked nearly everywhere we too can walk with Him through Ordinary Time and delve even deeper into his mystery. There is so much still to learn and so little time.
And there — no doubt — will be surprises as the picture comes more into focus.
Never underestimate the power of the “ordinary.”