Being Ordinary: homily for the 3rd week of Ordinary Time

Readings are found in their usual spot.

For reasons that are largely irrelevant, I went way off the script in the second half of this.  Way off.  And it was a lot better than what I had written.  I tried to edit some of that back in, but I couldn’t remember everything, so this is sort of a mashup of what I originally wrote with what I said.

A few days ago, a guy I went to seminary with – calling him a friend might be too much – shared a link to some article he found on Facebook.  Now, ordinarily, I have a very strict “Don’t click on Joe’s links” policy – because generally, I disagree with all of his opinions – but in this case, something made me do it.  And I’m rather glad it did.  It wasn’t really an article; certainly not an op-ed piece or something of that sort.  Instead, it was a reflection written by a pastor of a parish in the New York City area about 6 years ago.  I have absolutely no idea how Father managed to dig this thing up – shouldn’t he have been working? – but he did, and there it was.

It was a reflection on our current liturgical season – that of Ordinary Time.  In times past it was called the Time Throughout the Year, but with the liturgical reforms, we got a new name.  The author opined that, for many people, Ordinary Time can be something of a struggle – that it can lead folks into a spiritual lethargy, if not paralysis.  Because nothing happens during Ordinary Time!  No fancy Advent wreath.  No beautiful Christmas trees and manger scenes.  It’ll be almost another month and a half before we mark our foreheads with ashes and the fish fry starts back up.  Even longer until we get to celebrate my favorites, the complicated and beautiful liturgies of Holy Week.  And it’s certainly not Eastertide, with the singing of Alleluias and the sprinkling of Holy Water and Masses that take – how dare they – sometimes an hour and five minutes to complete.  But we don’t get any of that during Ordinary Time…it just is what it is.  And for some, that can be a downer.

But – and this was the author’s point – what, exactly, is wrong with ordinary?  When did ordinary become bad?  You don’t come home from the doctor in a panic, saying, “Honey, I’ve got terrible news.  The doctor says all my tests are…ordinary!”  Which flight would you rather be on: the one that had an engine fall off and had to make an emergency landing in Sioux Falls, or the one that was…ordinary?  When things are ordinary, it means that everything is working according to plan – and when it comes to Ordinary Time, one can say that it means everything is working according to God’s plan.

Which is, I have to say, a pretty good one.

I bring all this up because today’s Gospel is rather…ordinary.  It doesn’t recount one of Jesus’ great homilies or parables.  There are no great miracles, aside from an off-handed remark about curing disease and illness.  Even the account of the apostles being called to follow Him is remarkably understated.  The whole thing is just ordinary.  He just starts to preach, and his message is simply, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

It’s so ordinary, it’s perfect.  Because it’s precisely what the Father has willed for Jesus to do.

And while it might look like Jesus is “just” preaching, or it might appear that His message is too “simple” – consider where He does this preaching.  In Galilee, by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.  These places that had only known darkness, and despair, and gloom – for them, a light has shone.  Now they have abundant joy and great rejoicing.  All because of an ordinary message delivered in an ordinary way.

Ordinary is good enough!  Too often we think of all the gifts and talents God didn’t give us, and insist that they are the reason that we don’t proclaim the Gospel more, that we don’t pray more, that we don’t study Scripture more, that we aren’t holy.  “If God wanted me to do that, He would have made me a saint, but…” But nothing.  Sure, some of the saints had extraordinary gifts in one or another way, but most did not.  Most were just ordinary people that learned to start saying yes to God instead of no.

Put another way: you are good enough.  You were made in the image and likeness of God, you were redeemed by the blood of Jesus on the cross, you are God’s beloved son or daughter: you have exactly what you need to be holy.  Be who you are, and become what you were made to be.

You’re not just ordinary…you’re ordinary enough.

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