Ordinary Time Lived to the Fullest

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We who live in Minnesota often boast to warm weather folks that we enjoy all four seasons. Yes, that’s right – I said enjoy. Although we sometimes grimace at being face to face with the cold and impatient for our cars to warm up (if they even start!), there is something so familiar about it. The wind chill of recent weeks has not just brought us bitter, frigid cold, but what we come to expect living in Minnesota. Reports of the extreme cold weather striking the East Coast reminds us that we are not alone. Our prayers are with those who suffer because of these frigid conditions, especially to those without stable or warm places to live.

As a sort of corollary to what we experience in the natural phenomenon of climate, the Church offers us the various Liturgical Seasons. One of the best parts about being Catholic is celebrating all the seasons. Having begun a new Liturgical Year with the First Sunday of Advent in early December, we began the yearly cycle all over again which will culminate with the Solemnity of Christ the King. The goal is not pointless repetition but rather the deepening of our appropriation of this annual rhythm.

Having traversed the season of Advent longing, we then commemorated the great mystery of Christmas and the truth about Emmanuel, God-with-us in His Son. It takes even more than 12 Days to unfold the graces of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem; this year I counted fifteen days of Christmas. After a series of Christmastide feast days we come back into this time called ‘Ordinary’. Comparatively that seems like a bit of a letdown! Fear not, other special seasons are coming: Lent begins this year in about a month with Ash Wednesday on February 14th. Eastertide will follow on its heels, for a total of 90 days that culminate on the great Feast of Pentecost on May 20th (this year also Art-A-Whirl weekend in Northeast). Will the snow will be melted by then? We can only hope!

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Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Let’s consider for a moment these coming weeks given to us as a first taste of the Ordinary Time that will later return for six months from June through November. It has often been said that Ordinary Time is neither devoid of grace nor of focus. But what then is it for? Here is one of the best explanations I have seen: “Besides the times of year that have their own distinctive character, there remain in the yearly cycle thirty-three or thirty-four weeks in which no particular aspect of the mystery of Christ is celebrated, but rather the mystery of Christ itself is honored in its fullness, especially on Sundays. This period is known as Ordinary Time” (Universal Norms , 43, emphasis added). The mystery of the person of Christ in its fullness! Not just one aspect or mystery of His life – but its entirety! 

One of the greatest truths that the Liturgical Year teaches us as Catholics is that life unfolds slowly, according to its seasons. Even several weeks after His birth, Jesus was still a newborn child, not yet fully formed for His saving mission. He needed to keep growing just as we need to keep growing. Even when Jesus did come to full stature, He revealed Himself and His Father’s will gradually. He was identified by St. John the Baptist, but His contemporaries only slowly began to follow Him and open their hearts to His teaching. Little by little He began to attract a following of disciples who were prompted by the invitation we hear in today’s Gospel to “Come and see!” (John 1:39). Our response of faith, our presence at Mass, and the desire to study our Catholic Faith are all responses to this invitation. There will be many opportunities to respond together as a parish.

Let us take up the invitation that Mother Church gives through the Liturgical Year. As the cold of this season runs its course, and as we delighted in a couple of ‘balmy’ days in the 30s, let us give thanks that as Catholics we find reason to celebrate all the seasons—even Ordinary Time! Let us walk with Christ in the Gospels, follow Him, observe Him, learn from Him, draw close to Him and ultimately be saved by Him. He came to save us from the cold of indifference, selfishness, disobedience and sin. He came to warm our hearts and give us courage to persevere with loving trust in Our Father’s plan, slowly unfolding in our lives. So may it be!

One final note, this season of intense cold is also be a season of isolation for our elderly and homebound. If you know of someone in our parish who desires a visit from a priest, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the parish office. We want to be here for you and in the coming months will continue working to strengthen our outreach. We are also identifying new ways to reach out to support residents at our local Senior Living facilities, especially at Bywood East and Catholic Eldercare. If you have ideas or would like to get involved, please get in touch with me, Fr. Hagan or Deacon John Belian.

May God bless you abundantly,
Fr. Howe

One simple way to delve more deeply into studying your Faith is by signing up for access to Formed.org using our parish code PBGWTD. It is our gift to you!