On this Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. For those who are attuned to the way in which the Church measures times and seasons, this is both the last Sunday of the Christmas Season and the first Sunday of what we call “Ordinary Time.”
“Besides the times of the year that have their own distinctive character, there remains in the yearly cycle thirty-three or thirty-four weeks in which no particular aspect of the mystery of Christ is celebrated, but rather the mystery of Christ itself is honored in its fullness, especially on Sundays. This period is known as ‘Ordinary Time’ (Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar, n43).”
This paragraph serves to remind us that there is really nothing ordinary about “Ordinary Time.” While we’re not celebrating the Mystery of Christ’s Incarnation (Christmas), or the Paschal Mystery (Lent/Easter), nonetheless we continue to focus our worship of God around the total mystery of who Jesus is for us during every Sunday of the year. Focusing on who Jesus is, and contemplating his mission and ministry is a year-round work of God’s faithful people. Continuing to meditate on the scriptures and consistently making an effort to model our lives on the example of Jesus is the work of “Ordinary Time.” In a very real sense, our efforts at ongoing conversion and our deepening of our discipleship of Jesus, is grounded most fully in the “Ordinary” of our year.
Sunday enjoys a very particular place in the measuring of Christian time. Catholics learn from an early age the importance of attending church every Sunday. Indeed, some people believe that it’s a “mortal sin” to miss mass on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation. While this is not entirely accurate, nonetheless, the Catechism of the Catholic Church still considers it a “grave sin” to miss mass on Sunday (CCC 2181). From the beginning of the life of the Church, Christians have gathered together with other Christians to celebrate the “Day of the Lord.” What we know from a few centuries of lived experience is that when we keep the habit of Sunday worship together we do well, both individually and as a community. However, when we develop a habit of not being present with the community for Sunday worship, our spiritual health as individuals is compromised and our well being as a community is greatly diminished.
On a more personal note, as pastor, I can’t help myself but I like to see people in church. I look at pews where old-time parishioners once sat and I remember them, and I remember to say a little prayer for the repose of their souls. I become familiar with the same people in the same seats Sunday after Sunday, and when they’re not there, I miss their presence. It’s not that I’m keeping count, or taking roll call, but that I find myself missing their presence, their prayerful support, the goodness of their self-gift with and for the people who have gathered together for worship. When I see them in their “regular pew” the next Sunday, my heart is lifted up and I feel that we are more ourselves as a community than when someone is missing from among us.
In a community as large as this, with six celebrations of Sunday Eucharist every weekend, I don’t notice everyone all the time. That’s in the nature of the size of our parish. What you may not know, however, is that I draw my own spiritual nourishment from the gathering of God’s people in Northridge, weekend after weekend. My Eucharistic Spirituality is nurtured and nourished every time I come to stand and pray at our altar, the same altar around which and before which we gather for worship on the Lord’s Day. This is the altar of our Thanksgiving, of our Eucharist.
It is here that we come to be with one another as we individually and collectively acknowledge, with gratitude, all the blessings that God sends our way from week to week. It is at this altar, where as your pastor, I stand in your name to make our offering of thanksgiving, calling on God to send the Holy Spirit to make holy that which we offer of our lives… When anyone else is away from this altar, I miss them… When I am away from this altar, I miss it, and wherever I am travelling, at whichever altar I find myself worshipping and giving thanks, I hold you all in prayer.
...And this is all very “Ordinary”...