We’re in ordinary time in the church year. Ordinary time is more than “day by day” time. It’s the time after Pentecost when the Holy Spirit prepares the world for the final coming of Jesus Christ. In ordinary time the gospel goes out to all peoples and nations. It’s the time of the church; it’s our time.
We’ve left the easter season when Jesus, risen from the dead, revealed the saving plan of God to his disciples who go out into the world with his message. We read the resurrection narratives, especially from the Gospel of John in which the Risen Jesus instructs his disciples, and the Acts of the Apostles, which describe the years the apostles began their mission after Pentecost up to the time when Paul and Peter reached Rome.
Now, ordinary time takes us to the next stage of God’s plan, the next stage in the church’s growth. In this first week of ordinary time, the readings from the Epistle of James and the Gospel of Mark look at the church of the 70s, after the destruction of the Jerusalem and the Jewish temple, as the mission of the apostles ends and another era begins. Commentators say these readings were written and are directed especially to Christians facing difficult, unexpected calamities brought about by persecutions and the destruction of Jerusalem and its holy places.
Ordinary time looks to all the eras the church lives through. We read the scriptures ever day in ordinary time, because the mystery of Jesus remains with us every day, year by year.
The saints play an important part in ordinary time. They show how Christians respond to the times they live in, and they pass their wisdom on to us. For example, we have two saints this week, Venerable Bede, the 8th century English monk, and St. Philip Neri, the 16th century priest who led a reform of the church of Rome.
Bede never left his monastery, but his commentaries on the scriptures and his history of the English people still give us insight into the mystery of God and how life unfolds.
Philip Neri is usually remembered as a joyful man with a great sense of humor who worked effectively with the young people of his day. But he was more than that.
In his day Protestants were turning to history to back up their claims against the Catholic Church, so Philip encouraged Catholic scholars and historians to look into the history of their own church, but with fairness and accuracy. Baronius said of him: “I love the man especially because he wants the truth and doesn’t permit falsehood of any kind.”
Philip helped the church look into its own traditions and roots. He lived in an era of fierce controversy, but he encouraged gentleness, cheerfulness and friendship as a way to Christian reform. He wanted people to see the beauty of faith. A biographer said “ his aim was to do much without appearing to do anything.
An example for us today?
Ordinary time is our school, we learn as we go through the church year. It’s the most important book we read, filled with wisdom and God’s grace.