Ordinary time in the liturgical calendar is the time outside of the major seasons. Catholics are tempted to take ordinary time for granted, but there is nothing ‘blah’ about it.
“May I go to Mass with you tomorrow?” – an unexpected request from our next door neighbor who attends the largest evangelical church in town and in which her husband is an elder. “Sure,” I replied, “May I ask why you want to come? She mentioned that she and her husband and a group of couples were reading a book about worship and she was curious about the Catholic worship service, the Mass. She included, “The author mentions that some churches even have water at the entrance of their church to remind people of their baptism.” I said, “That’s us.”
With New Eyes
Bringing someone to the liturgy who has not been to Mass before becomes a privilege for wonder because you get to see things anew through the eyes of someone who sees it for the first time. On the one hand, you discern their disorientation and perception of objects, words, actions and people at the surface level. You sense their feeling of alienation despite their attentiveness and you try to view how the “newness” of the details around may seem to them. At the same time, you know the significance and meaning of the objects, words and actions but they have become all too common to you and you have taken them for granted. You become alerted once more to comprehend with all the saints, the breadth and length, height and depth of Christ’s love (Eph. 3:18) that is made present at Mass.
Our Catholic faith is experienced with our senses, understood by our reason and leads our souls to enter into the mysteries of revelation that are beyond our limited capacity to understand. The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. (CCC 362). Because we are corporeal (having a body), we touch, smell, taste, sit, stand, speak, sing – we use our whole body to worship God in the liturgy. Because we are spiritual (having a spirit), we can know, love and adore God – “we can worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)
The practice of our Catholic Faith comes with signs, symbols, gestures and sacraments because Jesus was incarnated, He became a man and lived amongst us. The liturgy uses ordinary things like water, oil, bread, wine and candles, words and actions. These simple elements, however, are not ends in themselves but they bridge the physical to the spiritual, the exterior to the interior, the concrete to the abstract because Jesus is divine. The Holy Spirit present in our worship, transforms these ordinary things and makes them efficacious to effect a real encounter with the Living God. They not only signify but they usher spiritual realities in which God acts and we participate, where grace transforms us, where our salvation is being worked by Jesus Christ.
Who is the neighbor?
On the way home from Mass, I asked our neighbor, “What do you think?” She said, “What is this?” trying to mimic the gesture we do before the Gospel reading – touching her forehead and lips and chest. I told her it is a gesture of small crosses to let Jesus lay claim on our minds, lips and heart. It is a gesture that comes with a prayer right before we hear the Gospel proclaimed, “Lord, may Your words always be on my mind, on my lips, and in my heart.” She was astounded. “That is beautiful!” I said, “Yes, it is beautiful.”