September 6, 2020 – Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: Ezekiel 33:7-9 / Romans 13:8-10 / Matthew 18:15-20
The following is a homily I will be delivering at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis this morning:
I have a son-in-law that teaches music and is a liturgical musician himself. He acknowledges that it can be challenging to get excited about practicing his craft. The structured practice of technique and nuance is repetitive and less than exciting. The energy level picks up a bit when he is practicing a specific piece in preparation for a performance. Those practices get him focused on the end goal – to, in his words, “put the listeners in a place of beauty so as to allow God’s message to reach them.” The general practice sessions as well as the focused practices ultimately lead him to the humble joy of the performance itself.
My wife is an artist. She will at times draw or paint simply to stay sharp, to maintain her technique and skill level. While she enjoys it, she does it out of necessity. I can see her energy level increase when she has a specific piece in mind and becomes focused on that vision. Her passion is evident as her vision takes shape and comes alive on the canvas in front of her. From that point on she is “in the zone” until the piece is complete and matches what was in her mind’s eye.
As an athlete in high school, I was not a fan of practice. Pre-season was the worst. The drills, the repetition, and the monotony were a necessary evil. Things picked up a bit when we began practicing for a specific opponent; the end was in sight. What we wanted was game night – that was our goal and that was when our adrenaline kicked in and we had the opportunity to play the game we loved.
As mundane as practice was, my son-in-law, my wife, and I can all recall multiple times when something “clicked” for us during practice. On the third time or fiftieth time or perhaps two-hundredth time we did something, a light bulb came on and we learned something that made us better.
As we look back with a more mature perspective, it is clear that without the practices we could not have enjoyed the humble joy of the performance, the finished piece of artwork, or game night. We could not have had one without the other; they went hand-in-hand.
These examples came to mind as I was preparing this week’s homily.
As I read through the scripture passages for today’s Mass, I saw several themes emerge: Our responsibility to share the Word of God, our call to love one another, and the uncomfortable duty we have to hold ourselves and others accountable.
I thought to myself, “Again? Didn’t I just preach about this recently?”
As I looked back over my last several homilies, it was true. I have preached on sharing the gospel message, loving God and others, and accountability multiple times. As a matter of fact, if you add the topics of prayer and community, that is basically all Fr. Jim and I have preached about over the last several months.
The reason for that is simple. We are in what the Church calls Ordinary Time.
The Church organizes its liturgical year into seasons. The year begins with the Advent season, followed by the Christmas season. Then we have several weeks of Ordinary Time before the Lenten season leads us into the Easter season. The time between Easter and Advent is another extended period of Ordinary Time. That’s where we are now.
Recalling the analogies I mentioned earlier, Christmas and Easter are the celebration – they are the performance or game night. Advent and Lent are the times of focused practice and preparation. Ordinary Time is everyday practice. It’s when the real work gets done; it’s the grind; it’s when we are picking up our crosses and following Him.
There is no Easter without Lent, and there is no Lent or Easter without Ordinary Time.
Today is the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. Roll up your sleeves and stay the course, because there are still eleven more weeks of Ordinary Time ahead of us.
The term ‘ordinary’ in our common use typically refers to something being plain, unimpressive, or unimportant. We tend to approach it as something to get through – “it is what it is”. For that reason, many people hear ‘Ordinary Time’ and they immediately think of the season in the same way. However, that understanding doesn’t reflect the true meaning of the season.
Ordinary, in the liturgical context, comes from the Latin term ordinalis, meaning ‘ordered’ or ‘numbered’. It refers to the ongoing rhythm and flow of the season.
The USCCB explains Ordinary Time like this: Christmas Time and Easter Time highlight the central mysteries of the Paschal Mystery, namely, the incarnation, death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Sundays and weeks of Ordinary Time, on the other hand, take us through the life of Christ. This is the time of conversion. This is living the life of Christ. Ordinary Time is a time for growth.
As such, it is fitting that green is the liturgical color of Ordinary Time. Green represents growth, new life, and hope.
Rhythm and flow. Time of conversion. Time of growth, new life, and hope. Don’t these perspectives sound better than monotony, hard work, and grind? Ordinary Time is our everyday, repetitive practice time spent preparing for the great liturgical celebrations.
The gospel readings during Ordinary Time recount the active ministry of Jesus. They detail for us what Jesus taught his disciples. What did he teach? He taught them to spread the gospel message, to love others, and to hold themselves and others accountable so that they might all attain eternal life. He taught them to pray and taught them the importance of community. He repeated those lessons over and over. That was the rhythm and flow of his teaching, and so it is the rhythm and flow of the message of Ordinary Time.
So when you hear Fr. Jim or I preach on one of these recurring topics, you may ask yourself, “Again?”
To which we will respond, “Yes, again.”
We preach it again because it is the message Jesus taught over and over again. He did so in the hope that on the third time, or fiftieth time, or perhaps two hundredth time we hear it, a light bulb will come on and we will learn something that will make us better disciples.