Ordinary Time in the Church’s liturgical year is anything but ordinary

Published: February 18, 2006

By Father Erik Pohlmeier

The word “ordinary” usually brings to mind ideas such as “common,” “plain” or “mundane.” When the Church speaks of “Ordinary Time” a very different meaning is intended. Being some weeks into Ordinary Time it is important to understand its meaning and incorporate it more fully into our daily lives. For the liturgical year the meaning of “ordinary” is anything but “mundane.” Instead, it comes from the same root as the word “ordinal” meaning “numbered in order.” Hence, we have the first, second, third, all the way to the 34th week in Ordinary Time. The idea of time being in order can be a great help in living the Catholic life. We understand that the opposite of being in order is being in chaos, in disarray. When something is not working properly we speak of it as being “out of order.” When preparing for a trip we try to make sure that plans and home are put “in order.” To apply this idea to the life of faith, Ordinary Time is the time to put our Catholic lives in order. Time itself belongs to God and the passing of time in our lives should be consecrated to God. For a Catholic the key to this consecration is Sunday Mass. Sunday Mass is much more than an obligation to be completed so we can move on to other things. Sunday Mass is the source of grace for the rhythm of each week. If Sunday Mass is neglected, then the entire week will surely be out of order. In the course of about an hour, the Mass offers forgiveness of sins, prayer with and for the Body of Christ, God’s Word spoken through the Scriptures, Christ made really present on the altar and offered to the Father, and nourishment in holy Communion. Understood as such it is clear that Sunday Mass is the only fitting way to begin the responsibilities of the week. Strengthened by the grace of God each day of the week offers plenty of opportunity to live well. With God as the first priority, each day should begin with prayer. The length of the prayer is less important than the act itself of consciously accepting the day from God and offering your time to him. Any chance to turn the mind to God serves as a reminder that the passing of the day is not just a routine but an order that can lead to holiness. Second in priority is family: marriage first and then children. The vows made in marriage should never be mundane. Taking care to live out faithful love goes a long way to keeping life in order. Taking for granted the vows of marriage will assuredly lead to disarray. The most time consuming of priorities is usually work, but despite the time required it remains subordinate to God and family. Work, however, is a place to put faith in action, as a witness bringing faith into the world. It is also a way to put talents at the service of others and a means to providing for family. In the Church year Ordinary Time is the longest of seasons, but it is time given by God that belongs to God. Time itself should be consecrated. Used well, Ordinary Time is never monotonous. Lived with purpose, time will help to keep order in our lives. A Catholic life lived “in order” offers peace in this world and will end in the world of perfect order, with God and his saints in heaven. Father Erik Pohlmeier is the theological consultant for Arkansas Catholic and pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Hot Springs.