In a talk she gave to the Sisters over Christmas break, Mother Assumpta Long, OP, began by telling us that she had looked ahead on the calendar to see “January 14 – Ordinary Time.” While acknowledging that she would find it more enjoyable to stay at the “high point” of the Christmas season, she commented, “But that is our life; our life is Ordinary Time.”
Ordinary Time is called “ordinary” not because it is somehow a “dull” season between the more exciting times of Christmas and Easter, but because we count the weeks with “ordinal” numbers (first, second, etc.). Therefore, it is essentially an “ordered” season, in which we read and reflect on the life, teachings and miracles of Jesus while He was on earth.
But there is something “ordinary” about the fact that we are not in the “mountain-top” experiences of Christmas and Easter. We are reminded of the day-in and day-out holiness to which we are called. Holiness comes not only in the moments of great consolations and joy — the “Christmases” and “Easters” of life — nor in the times of expectancy or of penitence and sorrow — the “Advents” and “Lents” — but in fidelity at each small, “ordinary” moment.
And so our life as Christians is “Ordinary Time.” Are we faithful to the Lord and to the task He has given us for life when the alarm goes off in the morning, when we feel unappreciated by those we love, when we are sick or tired and desire only to think of ourselves? Do we see Him coming to meet us in each of the ordinary people and events we encounter: our family members, our boss and coworkers, the person checking us out at the grocery store, the driver cutting us off in traffic?
The Lord has always made Himself known in the most unlikely — to our limited human way of thinking — circumstances: An old man and his wife far beyond the age of bearing children. A Hebrew slave raised as an Egyptian. Prophets who know not what to say and are, in the eyes of the world, too young. A young maiden in a small, looked-down-upon town. A carpenter-turned-preacher killed as the worst of criminals. A Church filled with not only saints but sinners. A Host that looks to the senses like just a piece of bread. The baby crying in the middle of the night. The child struggling with homework. The spouse who’s had a rough day. The laundry that needs folding, and the dishes that need washing.
All of these are our opportunities to see Him — to meet Him in His “distressing disguise,” in the words of Mother St. Teresa of Calcutta.
Jesus Christ is waiting to meet you today, in the midst of what might seem like the most ordinary of circumstances. Will you recognize Him?
Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.