Monday, September 13, 2010

Being Ordinary

I had the opportunity to write a few bulletin reflections for our parish. I decided to reprint them here. I've included the date and readings for the Sundays for which the originally appeared.

May 30, 2010 (Proverbs 8:22-31 – Romans 5:1-5 – John 16:12-15)

Ordinary Time. It’s a deceptively boring label for the liturgical season we now find ourselves in. It’s not “special” like Advent, Christmas, Lent or Easter. There are no special, beloved Ordinary Time songs or decorations. No unique Ordinary Time traditions. It’s just ordinary, plain. It’s just like most of my life and yours. We “live and move and have our being” in the ordinary time of our lives, punctuated by special events like birthdays, marriages & anniversaries, job changes, and moving.

The challenge of the ordinary is keeping our passion alive. It’s easy to be excited when we’re standing at the mountain top of great moments in our lives. Love’s flame burns strong with little effort on your wedding day. Keeping that flame alive after five, ten, fifteen or more years takes far more than sentimental excitement; it takes hard work. So it is with the ordinary time of our spiritual journey. We can climb to great heights by attending retreats, parish missions or beautiful liturgies with all kinds of smells & bells; but we must also travel through the spiritual doldrums of everyday life. That’s why it’s so hard to get a seat for Midnight Mass at Christmas or on Easter Sunday morning while surprisingly roomy in the pew on the Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time.

There is wisdom in the Church’s celebration of liturgical seasons, especially Ordinary Time. It teaches us the value of embracing the ordinariness of our lives and elevating it to something more by redeeming it for Christ. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said “Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.” That is the great opportunity that being ordinary presents to us. We must look for opportunities presented to us in ordinary and simple ways to show the love of Christ to those around us. Our challenge is not to grow weary or complacent as we “run the good race” which is more a marathon than a sprint.

The key here, as St. Francis of Assisi would say, is to “do few things, but do them well.” Commit to attending mass every week. Spend five to ten minutes a day in quiet and prayer. Our prayer life doesn’t have to be something special, it just needs to be. By keeping your personal spiritual commitments simple you’re more likely to keep them period. Don’t be seduced by the thinking that only exceptional prayer experiences are the only ones worth pursuing. I know that for me it is a constant struggle to accept that five to ten minutes of prayer are fruitful, that I should be striving for a 30 minute or more prayer time. At the same time I know that my pursuit of the perfect prayer experience is often the enemy of having a consistent prayer life. That is why I take inspiration from Ordinary Time to realize that there is value in the little, but faithful efforts that I make.

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