After the fasting, prayer, and almsgiving of Lent and the joyous celebration of the Easter season, we return this Sunday to Ordinary Time. While our “regular” calendar is divided into twelve months beginning in January, the liturgical year is divided into liturgical seasons beginning with Advent. Each season has a distinctive liturgical color that is seen on the vestments worn by clergy and possibly in church decorations. Each season also has a distinctive feel and theological focus and may incorporate specific practices, like the abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent.
Ordinary Time, marked by the color green, is the part of the church calendar that falls between the distinctive church seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. The stretch of Ordinary Time we begin this Sunday continues until Advent—which feels like a long time from now! Ordinary Time surely is at a disadvantage in the liturgical calendar—it is long; it is not tied to central and specific events, as Christmas is tied to the birth of Jesus and Easter is tied to his resurrection; and there are not special practices or celebrations tied to it since it is just plain ordinary. Put slightly differently, it is more challenging to get excited about celebrating Ordinary Time!
Last week I suggested that we celebrate Ordinary Time by focusing on how we can live as Christ’s body in the world. Ellie Roscher’s blog post this week talks about an important aspect of living as Christ’s body in the world—taking care of our own bodies. Taking care of our bodies even includes pampering them at times, as we have been told that our bodies are the “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Taking care of our own bodies includes such various activities as eating nourishing food, exercising our body and brain, and resting and sleeping. If we do not take care of our own bodies, then we will not be in a position to act on our calling to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.
This week’s Gospel (Mark 4:26-34) suggests one way that we can live as Christ’s eyes in the world—to see possibility. In this passage, Jesus tells the crowd a parable about a farmer planting seeds. The farmer plants seeds, and then the farmer trusts that seeds will sprout, even if the farmer cannot explain how this happens. Jesus goes on to compare the reign of God to a mustard seed, the tiniest of seeds that when planted grows into a large shrub that can house and shade countless birds.
The images Jesus uses in his parables are drawn from the lives of his followers. Images of farmers and seeds, harvest and birds would have been familiar to those who sat on the beach to hear Jesus speak from a boat rocking gently on the waves. Yet Jesus challenges his followers to see these images in new ways—in this case, to identify the lowly mustard seed with the reign of God. Jesus challenges us in this parable to see the potential—the harvest that eventually comes from the seed, the reign of God as it will be in all its fullness. As Sister Joan has written, “When we no longer think that everything is exactly as it seems or that our way of seeing is all there is, then we can experience the mystery of God’s presence within, around, between, beside, among, and beyond us.”*
To be Christ’s eyes in the world means to see the world as Christ saw it—to see potential in that which may seem to have little potential; to identify the capacity for life in a world where doom and death may seem to reign; and to trust in a future in which God’s kingdom will be at hand. In a word, seeing with Christ’s eyes involves seeing with hope, a hope born from our belief in God.
Here are some simple ideas for the practice of seeing potential:
• Before you throw something away, think about whether it could be reused or recycled.
• If you are tempted to write off a movie, book, song, restaurant, political idea, way of praying, etc., give it a chance first.
• When you become frustrated by a person, place, idea, situation, or yourself, take the time to recognize the good in that person, place, idea, situation, or yourself.
What other ideas do you have to practice seeing potential in the world?
What other ideas do you have about how to act as Christ’s eyes in the world?*Joan Mitchell, Sunday by Sunday, June 17, 2012. Photo courtesy of arichards63 via Creative Commons License