After the bells and carols of December — and after the spectacle of the ball dropping in Times Square on New Year’s — we now enter the season of “nothing special.” We now enter what the Church calls “Ordinary Time.”
It’s a time that’s easily misunderstood and almost always underappreciated.
In that way, it’s a lot like life — if your life is anything like mine, anyway.
My days are fairly busy and full, but they’re alike in a general sort of way. I have the same set of tasks I have to complete. I deal with the same people, more or less. And even the emergencies I face — hospital calls, for example — fall into a set, small number of categories.
I have to confess, though, that my mind often drifts far from these everyday tasks. While I’m busy doing what needs to get done, I find myself daydreaming about things that are more exotic and extraordinary. Things like vacation, or even business travel — the promise of a change of pace, a change of scenery.
It would be easy for me to pass most of my life in this way. It’s easy for us to have our mind so set on the Next Big Thing that we miss out on the little things.
Yet the little things — the ordinary things of our ordinary times — are the real stuff of our real lives. Take those sick calls I mentioned. As a priest, I visit a lot of people who are very old when they’re suffering their final illnesses. When they look back on their most treasured moments, they’re more likely to mention simple meals at home than any foreign travel experience. They remember ordinary time.
It’s a shame — and maybe a sin — that we live so much of our lives thinking about the big events and parties, when we should be making more of the ordinary time God gives us.
That, for me, is the message of the season we’re just beginning in the Church. It’s not a time of major feasts. Ordinary Time brings us no special hymns or decorations or greeting cards. It’s business as usual. And that’s a beautiful thing.
We’re back to work now and back to the task of manifesting the Kingdom of God in our jobs, homes, the grocery store and by the way we drive on the freeway. We carry over something of the spirit of Christmas. We anticipate a bit of the spirit of Easter. But mostly we just do the work we need to do. We do it well. And we do it for God first of all.
This is how the Kingdom comes. The author Anthony Esolen speaks the truth when he says: “Everybody wants to save the world, but nobody wants to do the dishes.”
In Ordinary Time we save the world precisely by doing the dishes. We relish the presence of God in the moment we have at the sink full of suds. We try to raise the level of the ordinary for the people around us. We strive to make every day richer in peace and joy.
These are the days we’ll always remember. These are the days our children, parents, siblings, neighbors and co-workers will remember. So let’s fill the days with kindness — let’s fill them with Christ.