The Christmas Season is over and Lent is still some weeks away. The time between the end of the Christmas Season and Lent and then again the weeks after Pentecost until the beginning of Advent are called “Ordinary” Time. Ordinary may bring to mind commonplace, run-of-the-mill, mundane, average — in other words, nothing particularly significant or important. But such is not the case.
Ordinary Time simply means the weeks are numbered from the Latin word ordinalis which refers to numbers in a series. Thus Ordinary Time is in fact the ordered life of the Church during which the readings at Mass focus on Christ’s life and ministry. There is, therefore, nothing ordinary about Ordinary Time. Rather, it is time to reflect on the extraordinary gift of Christ’s life and ministry among us and to proclaim Him with joy.
Our journey of faith lasts throughout our lives. Repeatedly, Christ calls us to come to Him; to learn from Him; to follow Him. When we accept the invitation we encounter Him in new and deeper ways. As committed disciples we then need to go forth and enter the world of our families and co-workers, our neighborhoods and communities and spread the good news of God’s merciful love.
I am reminded of the final song at our celebration of the culmination of the Year of Faith on November 24. “Go make a difference; we can make a difference. Go make a difference in the world.” I think Pope Francis is asking us to go forth and to make a difference. First he invites us to a renewed personal encounter with God’s love in Jesus Christ. And then he asks us, “How can we fail to share this love with others?” (The Joy of the Gospel, 3).
Proclaiming the love and mercy of God is the work of the new evangelization. The scripture readings during Ordinary Time reveal Christ proclaiming God’s word, healing people, inviting others to join Him in His mission and handing on to us the great commission to go forth and make disciples. Pope Francis tells us, “An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (Cf. Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others; try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved” in the work of handing on our faith (The Joy of the Gospel, 24).
All of us are missionary disciples. All of us are called to be agents of evangelization. Recall the first disciples, who, immediately after encountering Jesus, went forth to proclaim Him joyfully: “We have found the Messiah!” (Jn 1:41). Recall the Samaritan woman who after speaking with Jesus told others about Him and many more came to believe in Him (Cf. Jn 4:39). And let’s not forget St. Paul. After his encounter with Jesus, he immediately proclaimed Him (Cf. Acts 9:20).
Don’t leave the work of handing on our faith to someone else. Begin now. One relatively simple but nonetheless effective way we can bring Christ to others is to witness to the joy of our encounter with Him. Let’s not be among those whose lives seem to reflect Lent without Easter or who perpetually look like someone who has just come back from a funeral (Cf. The Joy of the Gospel, 6 & 10). Our encounter with Christ brings us into the eternal embrace of God’s infinite love and mercy. May the beauty and joy of that encounter be manifested by our joy rooted in our relationship with Christ.
I mentioned in my recent pastoral letter that during my travels throughout the diocese for Confirmation or on other occasions when I witness the family joy at Baptisms and First Communions, I am reminded of the indispensable role of grandparents in handing on the faith. I see this in the pride they experience in their grandchildren and in the joy on the faces of the young as they share these special moments with grandparents. I hope our grandparents never underestimate the influence for good that they possess especially through the example of their practice of their faith. This is a powerful witness to their grandchildren and a cherished means of passing on the faith. May we all learn from these faith-filled grandparents, committed disciples and true agents of evangelization.
Ordinary Time gives us the opportunity to reflect on Christ’s life and ministry and to go forth and proclaim Him with joy. Our faith is an extraordinary gift we have received. It is a treasure to be shared. Go forth and spread the good news.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.