Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Is 49:3-6; 1 Cor 1:1-3; Jn 1:29-34

We have begun a season of Ordinary Time, which we will be with for the next seven Sundays. Then will come the special season of Lent. The Church’s Liturgical Year is divided into Festal seasons, Ordinary Time, and Saints’ feasts. The Festal seasons, like Christmas and Easter, celebrate the great Mysteries of Christ’s life. Ordinary Time is dedicated to applying the significance and import of those mysteries to our own daily lives. The Saints feasts are scattered among both the festal and ordinary seasons as examples of people who have applied the Christian mysteries in their lives.

By their very nature the seasons of Ordinary Time turn around the practical, daily aspects of living the Christian faith. I must admit that I personally like those spiritual writers who have that gift for seeing the Holy, the Mystery in ordinary situations of life. They have the special ability of seeing God’s grace at work in not just the ordinary, but sometimes the less pleasing aspects of life. I mentioned a couple of homilies ago that I’m currently reading Fr. Matthew Kelty’s Gethsemani Homilies. Fr. Kelty clearly possesses a great love for the monastic life, while at the same time acknowledging its numerous foibles. He has a gift for spotting the sacred in the ordinary. Listen to a few gems: "Once after supper at recreation several years ago I said to gruff, old Fr. Weyland, ‘It’s a lovely day.’ He growled back at me, ‘Every day is lovely.’ He might be right. All that comes from God is lovely, and we are thankful for all." (p. 21) "When we think thoughts of mercy, or pardon and forgiveness, we live in a climate of love by choice. As Christians we take pains to express this any way we can. The healing of a wound is not the mere application of a dressing or the taking of a few pills. Every aspect of body and soul is involved." (p. 17) "Dorothy Day saw as much of the seamy side of life as many and far more than most. She asked for only two words on her tombstone: Deo Gratias. Thanks be to God." (p. 22) But I really like to go back to Fr. Kelty’s question: Do we make a decision to live in a "climate of love by choice?" That means choosing to think thoughts of mercy, pardon and forgiveness. Every time that we do is an occasion for grasping the holy in the ordinary.

When I think about the holy in the ordinary, I’m reminded of an episode that happened about twenty years ago back at my monastery. One of the main switchboard operators for the monastery was a young woman, a wife and mother of two. By a series of unusual circumstances I wound up being the one who would proofread this novel she was trying to write. She would send me a chapter; I would proof it; then go down to the main switchboard when she was working and go through my suggested revisions. As things turned out, she eventually gave up on writing the novel. (It was a steamy women’s romance story, and she was becoming afraid that her eleven year old daughter might find it sometime.) But one time we were just talking about a variety of things and she began telling me about this project she and a cousin of hers were undertaking, trying to reconstruct a family tree. She said that from time to time as she was working on this, she would have a sudden remembrance of a passage in one of the gospels that reflected what she was doing. I became intrigued as I listened, and finally I said, "Joanie, I think you can get that published as an article." It took some convincing (and the offer of my ghostwriting it with her), but she got it done and published. It was a marvelous melding of a practical, everyday action (researching a family tree) with a particular slant of how Jesus lives in our memories. It was a true example of the holy in the ordinary. (I’ll put a copy of her article in the back after mass.)

The challenge for each of us in this season of Ordinary Time is to discover "the holy in the ordinary" in our lives. It’s to ask ourselves every day if this day is one in which I live "in a climate of love by choice?" Today is a good day to begin.

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