Friends, this weekend brings our focus back to that time in our Church Year, Ordinary Time, while not a specific period like Advent, Christmas, Lent, or the Easter Season, is just as surely, an important time because this time of some 30 weeks, nearly 2/3 of our Church Year calls and challenges us to live out the messages instilled in us from our brother Jesus during those seemingly more special times named above.
And it is for this reason that I, as some others have chosen to name this part of our Church Year, “Extra” Ordinary Time, so that we wouldn’t forget its importance. We only have to look at today’s readings to realize that we do not have a free-ride during Ordinary Time.
Isaiah and the God who inspires him, gets right to the point: “You are my servant in whom I will be glorified.” Notice that we aren’t being asked here—there is just the realization that, “Yes,” this is the response that we will make in first having been loved by our God! It is almost as if God is saying, “Could you make any other response given what you know of my love for you?” The prophet continues God’s words: “I will make you a light to the nations,” and your light will be such that it will be seen, “to the ends of the earth!”
There is great joy here and we really shouldn’t miss that—it is much the same as we will see in upcoming weeks as Jesus calls his first disciples to be those same, “lights” that will shine to the ends of the world—or at least throughout the world within each of them lives.
The joy within those first followers was palpable when they said, “Master, where do you live?” and Jesus answered, “Come and see!” I am of course getting ahead of the scriptural story for today that simply identifies our brother Jesus as the One sent by our God to show us the way. But one step really does lead to the next and our response to the knowledge that Jesus is the Christ—the Anointed One is to respond with the psalmist, “I am here to do your will!”
Paul then lets us know in this regard that he, “is called to be an apostle of Jesus,” and therefore tells the Corinthians that they are called to “be a holy people!” “And what does that mean to be a holy people,” we might ask? I would say that it calls us to be our best selves. And going further, what does that in fact look like in our own lives?
Looking over my past week, a few things come to mind:
- As you know, Dick Dahl stood in for me last weekend as I spent time with my family completing our Christmas celebration. He always tells me, “Doing this is his privilege!” That in itself is wonderful!—certainly a way that he shines his light. In the homily that Dick shared last week, he commented on serving twice monthly at the Catholic Worker house staffing that facility over the dinner hour. Very honestly, he spoke of not looking forward to this service, but doing it anyway because he knows that we will find Jesus there! I value his comments so much because they support me when I feel the same way. I too instinctively know that I must go as well or else I make a sham of ever looking for Jesus any place else, especially here among the love and care and respect of all of you—if I can’t find him there; I shouldn’t expect to find him here, either.
- I read a number of letters-to-the-editor of the National Catholic Reporter this week, probably 2/3 of them in support of the paper’s decision to name Nancy Pelosi, Catholic Newsmaker of the Year. Regardless of where any of us might be politically, I believe it is important to say that what Nancy Pelosi has done to earn this recognition went far beyond party and politics as she is accused of, by some—her actions were about patriotism—upholding the Constitution of this country that says that no one is above the law. Now of course, everyone doesn’t see it that way and when a person decides, “to shine the light of our brother Jesus in our world, as we all must do if we are to be his followers; we can be certain that we too, as Pelosi, as Jesus, as Paul, may be ridiculed—but we must do it anyway.
- As I prepared for this homily, I took a look at what I wrote 3 years ago at this time as one administration in Washington was ending and another about to begin. Throughout the rhetoric of the previous election year, there was much talk about “making America great again.” I found myself then, as now, asking, what is not great about working for the weakest among us, securing healthcare for millions of people who had none, standing up for equality in marriage for all those who love each other, protecting the environment through laws that curb abuse, done simply for monetary gain, leading the way in making our world safer from nuclear proliferation, standing up for women in equal pay for equal work and for women’s rights over their own bodies? All of the above are about “shining our light” as Jesus asks of each of us.
In his final speech to Congress, President Barack Obama challenged each of us to do our part for our country and the same could be said for our Church, and of our families, because all these entities are ours and they will only be as great as we each are great. At that time, the president’s words were simple–we all need to lace up our shoes, put our feet on the ground and get going!”
I can’t help but reflect on what a different tone this is to so much of what is coming out Washington these days—the hate, the back-biting, the meanness, the smallness, the lies and lack of truth-telling—a tone so much about, “what is best for me,” so devoid of service toward all the people which should be the guiding force of any and all who would ask to be an elected official of this great nation.
But with each New Year, in both Church and State, there is hope anew, for change. A new year’s letter from a friend had some hope-filled thoughts—here are a few: walk more—to the library, the post office…go outside, even when it looks gray and cold, eat more vegetables, get more often into that appreciation state of mind, noticing all the things that are genuinely worth appreciating….
Our Church and our brother Jesus, calls us in today’s liturgy as throughout the entire Church Year, “to be lights” in our world, “to touch,” “to be seen with,” “to keep company with,” those we may not want to be with—to see their needs, to hear their stories, to do our parts and in so doing, to make life better for all, including ourselves. I can still hear Barack Obama’s encouragement to us in that final speech—“Yes we can!” Amen? Amen!