Humanity is weary, exhausted and tired of this COVID pandemic. The cry and the desire of many is for our lives and our world to get back to normal. Some have suggested that we would not have our lives back to normal any time soon, instead we will have our lives back to a “new normal.” What “new normal” will be remains to be seen. Yet, most of us want to talk to each other without masks, we do not want ordinary events to be canceled, and we do not want to hear the phrase, “social or physical distancing” any more. Whether “new normal” or simply “normal,” we want ordinary.
Many Christians around the world follow what some call either a “liturgical” or a “church” calendar. It is the church’s witness to the world and a reminder that time matters to God. It is a way of declaring that God and the church live and tell a different kind of time. Looking at the church calendar closely, you would discover that a large portion of the calendar is devoted to what is called, the “Ordinary Time.” This year, the second phase of the Ordinary Time begins at the end of May and lasts until the season of Advent. Depending on tradition, it encompasses 33 to 35 weeks. Ordinary on the church calendar does not mean dull or boring, instead it refers to numbering (from Latin ordinalis) or counting of days.
The Ordinary Time is long and has two periods: from Epiphany to the beginning of Lent and from Pentecost to the beginning of the Advent. The Ordinary Time is longer than any other of the liturgical seasons. While the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Eastertide are meant to evoke and teach us many things about the life of Christ, the meaning of incarnation, journeying with the Lord to the Cross and the joys of the resurrection, the Ordinary Time invites us to put all these things we have learned and participated in during those liturgical seasons into practice of daily and normal lives.
Another way of referring to “Ordinary Time” is counting Sundays after Pentecost (or Sundays after Epiphany in the first phase). We are going to have the first, the second, the third, the fourth and so forth Sundays after Pentecost. In fact, some of us will get confused when we get to upper teens and twenties counting those Sundays. We will be challenged to live the example of Christ after Pentecost (empowered by the Spirit) during the normal and ordinary grind of our daily routines and experiences. As the counting will get more challenging, so will the living out the way of the Lord.
All parts of our lives and experiences belong to God, including the ordinary. In the Bible, the people of God would at times have what may be called high “mountain top” experiences. Whether it is Moses on mount Sinai (Exodus 19-31) or Elijah on mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-40) or Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:1-8), sooner or later the people of God had to come down from the mountain of great experiences with God and live out their faith in the valley of challenging and daily routines. For example, Moses had to deal with the people of God worshiping the “golden calf” (Exodus 32) and Jesus had to deal with the struggling disciples and heal the “epileptic” boy (Mark 9:14-29).
The lives of the people of God are meant to be lived out in the ordinary and at times challenging routines of life. And the Scriptures remind us that during those ordinary times, God does his great work. Taking your child to daycare, eating supper with the family, working hard on the project at work, negotiating a tough situation or relationship, loving a challenging person, or simply resting from the daily routine of life with your family on the beach are experiences that we may refer to as “normal and ordinary.” May we be open and sensitive to God’s voice and call during those times in our lives. I thank God for the Ordinary Time because our God cares for the ordinary and normal. In fact, it is ok to say that he is the God not only of the Ordinary Time, but ordinary people like you and me. I do not know about you, but this year I am ready for normal and ordinary as never before.