By Fr. Tim McFarland, C.PP.S.
We have once again entered into Ordinary Time of the liturgical year. The decorations of Christmas are put away and we’re back to the ordinariness of the year. However, the readings for today offer us a challenge to be “extraordinary” during these ordinary times in our lives.
Isaiah speaks of being formed in the womb to serve a purpose. The psalmist sees himself as destined to do God’s will. Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians that they are called to take their place among the saints, and a lot of the rest of his letter shows what a challenge that is. In the Gospel, John the Baptist speaks of himself as having been sent to baptize so that Jesus would be revealed, which is what last Sunday’s feast was all about.
Although he was not a disciple, John gets a more detailed and personal description than the Gospels give any other character except Jesus himself. Historically, John was probably as well-known as Jesus and his following rivaled that of Jesus. But with all that John accomplished, his greatest Gospel witness came through his saying that he was not “the one.” The picture we get of John is that he not only had enough faith to believe in his own unique and crucial vocation, but enough to see beyond his own call, talents and insights.
John points to the holiness of Jesus who was experienced in the events of everyday life. Jesus did not confine himself to the temple or synagogue. He was with people in their ordinary lives. In some way all three readings touch on holiness. Holiness anticipated in Israel in the first reading; holiness initiated by Jesus in the Gospel; and the call to the Corinthians and us by St. Paul is found in the second reading.
Jesus customizes holiness. There is no “cookie cutter” approach. No two of us are called to holiness in precisely the same way. Each of us is individually “called by name” because each of us has our personal, lived experience and gifts. I will often challenge students to think about their call to holiness –which is really to live a holistic balanced life. Ordinary time gives us the opportunity to be holy in our ordinary lives, whether at work at home, at school or wherever we find ourselves.
It’s easy to think about being holy and experiencing holiness during feasts or “holy” days as we experienced a few weeks ago at Christmas or that we anticipate in several months at Easter. But now is the time to seek and manifest holiness during these ordinary times in our lives.
Fr. Tim McFarland, C.PP.S., is the director of ministry and mission and serves on the faculty at Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting, Ind.