Having celebrated all the holy days of the past several weeks, the Church now begins Ordinary Time. In this season of the liturgical year, believers are invited to once again hear the teachings of Jesus Christ and rededicate themselves to him. Rather than splendid feast days or solemn commemorations, Ordinary Time is marked by its simplicity. It’s a season of regular reminders to all faithful to hear the Word of God and to live it.
For example, this weekend – drawing from the Scripture readings – disciples are invited to say in their own hearts, the words that Eli taught Samuel, ”Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” They are further beckoned – like Andrew and Peter – to accept the call of the Lord and to faithfully follow him.
What is the source of this continual renewal? What is the bedrock for the Christian believer in this age, or in any age?
In the sacrament of Baptism, we each entered into the new and eternal covenant with the Lord Jesus. In the Holy Eucharist and in the reception of Holy Communion, we participate in the sacrifice of that covenant and partake in the meal that celebrates our union with God. This covenant is the heart of our discipleship. It’s what unites us to the Lord. It’s what makes us a part of God’s immense family.
In the act of giving us a covenant, God shows us his love. By his covenant, he actively displays his desire for fellowship with each of us.
By accepting, renewing, and living in a covenant with Jesus Christ, we are summoned to regularly declare him our Lord. We are compelled by our love for him, to rekindle the multiple graces that he gives us on a daily basis. In this way, we are empowered to walk with him as our Friend and Companion along the entire journey of life and then into eternity.
As we share in this friendship with the Lord Jesus, we are given the opportunity to imitate him in our own speech and actions. As we ardently seek to follow his way – with greater or lesser success- we show the world what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
While perhaps taken for granted by many today, it is a powerful thing for people to announce that they are “Christians.” It is a strong calling to be a person of love and mercy. It’s a counter-cultural way of life to pursue integrity, peace, and reconciliation.
Once, while describing the various titles given to the papacy, Pope St. John Paul II noted that of all the titles that the pope has received throughout history, none of them are as essential or foundational or as weighty as the title “Christian.” This is the most important identity we have.
In an environment consumed with money, we have not been baptized into an economy. In a culture absorbed by political identity, we have not been baptized into a political party. In a world that has been threatened at times by radicalized nationalism, we have not been baptized as Americans. In an arena absorbed by entertainment and marketing, we have not been baptized into Hollywood or Madison Avenue. We have been baptized in Christ.
As Christians, we have died to all the areas of our life. It is a spiritual death that needs to be constantly renewed. It is in the spiritual death to the things of this world, that we are born from above and can live a new life in Christ. This newness of life gives us a supernatural, eternal perspective of reality.
In this spirit, Saint Paul teaches us in his Letter to the Romans: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
Of all the tiers of society and humanity to which we sometimes belong – and through which we oftentimes have to pass – none of these can make a legitimate claim of our souls. As Christians, baptized into Christ, our souls belong to God alone. Only he can make ultimate demands upon us, and only God can expect an absolute openness of our hearts.
This recommitment of heart and soul to the Lord Jesus is a life’s work. Along the journey, the Lord calls us back to himself, just as he called Samuel, Andrew, and Peter. Ordinary Time is a recall to us all. It’s a season to help us hear the Lord’s summons, to convert back to him, and to seek his help and companionship throughout our lives.
Follow Father Jeffrey Kirby on Twitter: @fatherkirby