I always think of the opening line to Snoopy's first novel in the old “Peanuts”…
Make the extraordinary ordinary
The Church may be back in Ordinary Time, but these times feel as if they are anything but ordinary. We’ve witnessed an attack on the U.S. Capitol by American citizens, a chaotic presidential transition and a raging pandemic responsible for tens of thousands of lives this month alone in our country. It is hard to escape the uneasy feeling, too, that the worst may be yet to come.
But for the Church, it is Ordinary Time. We have ended the feasting. We have taken down the tree. We have sung our last carol. We are back to the everyday rhythm of the life of the Church, reflecting upon Jesus’ calling of the Twelve Apostles, his proclamation of the Gospel and his miracles. During this time, the Church explores Christ’s ministry on earth and, as such, calls each of us into deeper contemplation of what it means to be his disciple as we go about our daily lives.
As the U.S. bishops write, “Ordinary Time is a time for growth and maturation, a time in which the mystery of Christ is called to penetrate ever more deeply into history until all things are finally caught up in Christ.”
It’s a beautiful sentiment. How, though, are we supposed to get “caught up in Christ” during such a moment in our history? How are we to focus on Christ when our lives are filled with distractions, worries and uncertainty — and even more than usual? We are battling the incessant noise coming from politics, media, sickness, social media and even our own relationships. We are attempting to figure out how to talk to our kids about the pictures they’re seeing on TV or online. We have to try to make sense of it ourselves — in and of itself no small task. Ordinary Time finds its root in the Latin ordinalis, which means order, numbered, ruled, and this time feels like anything but that. So what do we do?
Despite the extraordinary challenges of these extraordinary times, we are called by the Church to be ordinary. We are called back into the day-to-day rhythm of life where we can be attentive to Christ’s voice amid the clamor raging just outside — and sometimes inside — our doors. We’re called to get back to basics — Mass (even from home), the sacraments, daily prayer (including the Rosary and other devotions), a regular examination of conscience. We can spend time with Scripture and learn from Jesus as he teaches us. We can be attentive to our neighbor and those in need, offering up sacrifices and serving them as much as possible. This is the gift of Ordinary Time, even in extraordinary times.
If this seems difficult, we can remember that it was during the ordinary time of the lives of Simon Peter and Andrew, and James and John, that they heard Jesus call to them: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Our response must be like that of the apostles: “Then they left their nets and followed him.”
This does not mean we should disengage from life and wait for the storm to pass. It doesn’t mean we can’t read the news. It doesn’t mean we should not be politically active. It doesn’t mean — it certainly doesn’t mean — that we can hide ourselves away from the sick and the suffering and care only for ourselves. But it does mean that any type of engagement with the extraordinary events happening around us must be rooted in the Gospel. By leaving our nets behind and following Christ, we can help ease division, we can tend to the sick, we can bring peace to anxious minds. And in doing so, we can make the extraordinary ordinary.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editorial director for periodicals at OSV. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.