In these ordinary times

Published 2:41 pm Friday, July 2, 2010

In following the Christian liturgical calendar, we are now in the season known as “Ordinary time.”

This season is the long stretch between Pentecost Sunday and the beginning of Advent in December.

Ordinary time is just that—there are few major feasts to celebrate and no significant events in the life of Jesus are commemorated. The color for the season is green—representing life and growing things, crops in the field and lawns to mow, sun on the trees in the backyard as my cat sits in the window and fusses at the squirrels.

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Life at its most ordinary.

Sunday’s gospel reading finds Jesus “setting His face” toward Jerusalem for the events of His crucifixion. As He and His followers are traveling together, they enter a village in Samaria. When the villagers find out that the group is headed toward Jerusalem, they refuse to offer the usual hospitality. This meant that Jesus and his followers were not offered water to drink from the town well or places to stay in town. In fact, they were asked to just move on down the road to where they were headed.

Hospitality was a serious matter in this time. Not offering shelter to strangers meant that they might be set upon by robbers. They would not be able to refill their water supply or rest from their travels. To refuse hospitality was considered wrong—even sinful.

James and John, bless them, never missed a chance to engage in discussion of procedure or practice. The brothers were so offended at the refused hospitality that they asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven on the village to destroy it.

Jesus said no—leave them be. I can imagine John and James muttered and groused for a few more miles down the road.

There is a lesson for us here—a lesson for our ordinary times. Sometimes another opposes what we believe to be right. Our most carefully, thought-out opinions and ideas do not carry the day.

Sometimes who we are does not matter. And we are stung—hurt, angry, frustrated and want badly to lash out.

Jesus says we should walk on down the road. Jesus says that punishment does not belong to us.

Ordinary time invites us to look at our ordinary behaviors.

Are we still allowing lines of gender, race or economic means to determine where we offer kindness and hospitality?

Are we stuck in our own superiority to anyone different from us?

Do we snicker at someone else’s accent and treat them with less dignity than we think we deserve?

We are suffering in our society from a rash of bullying behavior among our children. Maybe that comes from their seeing our rudeness and carelessness in dealing with each other. Our curt replies, constant put-downs, easy profanity and impatience are played out in our children and how they treat those smaller and weaker than they are.

The chain of events begins with our indifference and small cruelties, and grows into harsh words, even blows.

The ordinary course of our lives is our witness to God’s love for us, and living it as holy is our best gift back to God. If God is not seen in us, where will others find God’s forgiveness?

It is this ordinary-ness of our service to God that gives the extraordinary its real meaning.