I know that this is what many of you wanted — prayed for, even — as you were shoveling snow or red-cheeked from leaning face-first into a frozen February wind. But not me. I’ll take ice scrapers and frozen fingers over sunburns and pools of sweat any day.
But the weather — as I’m writing this, the forecast is predicting 95 degrees with 90% humidity here in the upper Midwest — isn’t the only challenge we face as we continue to stumble deeper into the dog days of summer.
This weekend, the Church celebrates the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, and we (finally) have passed the halfway point of this extended (and interrupted) liturgical season. While we are called to carry on the joy of the Easter season throughout the year, once again too many of us have taken for granted singing the Gloria and the Alleluia during Mass. I’m as guilty as anybody. The worthwhile sacrifices of Lent are faded memories, and the anticipation of the birth of Christ in Advent is months away. We are in the dogs days, indeed.
But this sense of simply wandering aimlessly through Ordinary Time as if it has no purpose other than to bridge Easter and Christmas is a faulty premise — a mistake for which we only have ourselves to blame.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on their website reminds us that “the Sundays and weeks of Ordinary Time … take us through the life of Christ. This is the time of conversion. This is living the life of Christ. 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.”
While Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter focus on God’s grand gestures to his people, carried out through the incarnation, passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in Ordinary Time we are called to walk with Christ during his earthly ministry. The Gospel readings in Ordinary Time for Year C begin with Christ initiating his public ministry at the wedding feast at Cana and end with Christ foretelling of his impending crucifixion. In the Sundays in between, as a Church, we are called to be among the crowds, to hear and contemplate his parables, to witness anew his miracles and to be inspired and challenged by his teachings.
- We are told that from now on we will become catchers of men (Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Lk 5:1-11).
- We are told that if we stop judging then we will not be judged, and if we forgive then we will be forgiven (Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Lk 6:27-38).
- We are told that whoever asks will receive, whoever seeks will find and the door will be opened to whoever knocks (17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Lk 11:1-13).
- We are told that every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted (22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Lk 14:1, 7-14).
- We are told that the healed leper who remained to thank God was told that his faith had saved him (28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Lk 17:11-19).
While each of these parables and miracles that we hear in the Gospel readings throughout Ordinary Time are not celebrated in the same manner as Jesus’ birth, death or resurrection, combined, they make up the living — and livable — bulk of Christ’s teaching. And there is nothing ordinary about that.
Scott Warden is a managing editor at Our Sunday Visitor.