Finding joy in the Ordinary

By Fr Robert Riedling, 15 June 2024
People participate in worship during the Diocese of Parramatta World Youth Day pilgrimage launch at St John XXIII Catholic College, Stanhope Gardens. Image: Alphonsus Fok/Diocese of Parramatta


As we enter the month of June, we once again move to Sundays in Ordinary Time, witnessing the return to green vestments and green highlights around our churches, distinguishing this season from the recently concluded season of the Resurrection, more popularly known as Easter. Easter concluded around mid-May, but the Church dedicates the two Sundays following Pentecost to the Holy Trinity and the Body and Blood of Christ respectively. We will see liturgical green each Sunday from now till mid-November, a long stretch of nearly six months.

The term “Ordinary Time” is easily misunderstood. In most contexts, we understand “ordinary” to mean typical, common, or unremarkable. In a liturgical context, it refers to the numbering of the Sundays and weeks of the year outside the major seasons of Lent, Easter, Advent, and Christmas. It relates to the word “ordinal”, meaning numbered in the manner of “first”, “second”, “third”, and so on.

Yet there is a happy coincidence here because the numbered weeks and Sundays of Ordinary Time are indeed ordinary by comparison to the aforementioned big seasons of the Church’s year. Ordinary Time therefore presents us a challenge: to see the extraordinary in the ordinary – that is, to see the joy, life, energy and love of God, God’s very presence, in the ordinariness of daily life.

And, let’s face it, most of our life is spent doing “the ordinary”. As a percentage of our time spent on earth, extraordinary events would occupy a fraction of 1% of that time. We spend significant time keeping our bodies healthy through sleeping, eating and exercise. We spend time working to make a living or studying. Parents deal with children’s needs and time is spent dealing with life’s administrative matters. For most of us, even our leisure time is usually spent engaging in “ordinary”, though enjoyable, activities.

And this ordinariness can creep into something that ought to be understood and embraced as extraordinary – our faith. In much of Australia, as Ordinary Time commences, we are moving into cooler weather and all that entails, certain to make it a little more challenging for many people to see joy and beauty in day-to-day living.

But joy and beauty in the ordinary await those who make the effort to find it. It resides in a child’s smile, a job well done, the simple pleasures of friendship, a delicious meal, a beautiful day or hearing unexpected birdsong. Likewise, we can find joy and beauty, and thus God’s presence, in the liturgies of Ordinary Time if we are attentive to what this time of year has to offer.

This year, we are focusing on the Gospel of Mark, the earliest-written and shortest of the Gospels. Mark is a fast-paced Gospel or, to put it rather crudely, “action-packed”. Nothing boring or mundane here! Over the next six months, we will witness Jesus speak of His power over Satan, effect some amazing healings, raise the dead, speak incredible words of wisdom, feed thousands from five loaves and two fish, call Himself the living bread and speak of the great sacrifice He will make for human salvation.

Viewed in this context, we can receive a great boost to our faith as we come to understand more fully in these Gospel passages that Jesus is anything but ordinary. We reflect that we are called to intimacy with an extraordinary God, whose words and deeds in the scriptures are not something we are called to accept only as mere history, but to embrace as signs of ongoing love for us.

Let us allow these reflections on the Gospels and other scriptures over the next six months to help us see the presence of God in the ordinariness of life. Likewise, in making a conscious effort to see the beauty of God in the ordinariness of life, may we come to understand more deeply the extraordinary nature of the God we love and worship, made manifest for us most especially in the Gospels.

For the Christian, all that the world considers ordinary takes on the character of the extraordinary, for we are called to see the world through the eyes of God.

May Ordinary Time make this clear to us this year.

Fr Robert Riedling is Dean and Administrator of St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish, Parramatta, and Episcopal Vicar for Education.

This article was originally published in the 2024 Ordinary Time | Winter edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here or pick up a copy in your local parish.


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