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Ordinary time? Extraordinary time!

February 5, 2011

1st Reading: Isaiah 58: 7-10 – True Fasting

Responsorial Psalm 112 – The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 2: 1-5 – The Corinthians and Paul

Gospel: Matthew 5: 13-16 – The Similes of Salt and Light

Ordinary time.  It sounds, well,… so ordinary!  But this is a misnomer.  In Latin, Ordinary time is Tempus per annum – “time throughout the year” – and represents the liturgical year that is not distinctive and purposeful, such as Advent & Christmas, or Lent & Easter.  In Advent we ‘prepare the way of the Lord’ that Isaiah prophesied and in Christmas we receive the birth of a Savior.  In Lent we start with sackcloth and ashes; with repentance. With Holy Week to Easter, we experience the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, Our Lord, and mirror it, joined to our Catechumens and Candidates, as they take their vows and we renew ours.  In Baptism, we die to ourselves, and ride to new life as Christians.  Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life.

But what about the rest of the liturgical year?  Ordinary time starts with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  Jesus is beginning his ministry.  And it ends with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King; the return of the Son of Man.  Ordinary time does not need to be “ordinary,” and is not meant to mean that somehow we ease up from all the seriousness of the other seasons. The opposite is true: Ordinary Time celebrates “the mystery of Christ in all its aspects.”  Even the green vestments, linens, and accoutrement suggest our growth in the printemps – “Springtime” – of our Christianity, and maturity in our summertime.  Green is our life.  So Ordinary time is a walk with what Christ is teaching us about the Mysterium Fidei – the Mystery of Faith.

Last week we heard, though God gave us the Ten Commandments (Ex 20: 1-17 and Deut 5: 6-21) on what “thou shalt not do, Jesus taught us in his Sermon on the Mount, his Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 1-12) on how we are to act as disciples; “Blessed are…”.  This is the blueprint the prophets spoke of in the Old Testament – Moses, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Isaiah.  Remember, St. Augustine wrote, “The New Testament is hidden in the Old.  The Old Testament is manifested in the New,” and as we dive into Scriptures in general, and the Wisdom of the Cycles of the Liturgy specifically, we learn more about how we are to grow in our faith.

Sal terræ, lux mundi

This week’s readings are remarkable in their simplicity.  I myself, always love a simple cookbook, a simple recipe.  The flavors are always distinctive, never lose their identity.  And so it is here.  Isaiah instructs share your bread, shelter the oppressed, clothe the naked, and don’t turn your back on your own.  “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn” (Isaiah 58: 8).  Paul tells Corinth that “he resolved to know nothing… except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor 2: 2).  The responsorial binds the two together, espousing themes of the light of justice, and of mercy. Then Jesus submits a simple recipe of his own to our discipleship cookbook: Salt of the Earth and Light of the World.  Yum.

The NAB Commentary writes, “By their deeds the disciples are to influence the world for good.  They can no more escape notice than a city set on a mountain.  If they fail in good works, they are as useless as flavorless salt or as a lamp whose light is concealed.”  As disciples ourselves, we are charged with the very same criteria.  We are certainly held up to that standard by our critics are we not?  And we convict ourselves frequently in our hypocrisy.  But we shouldn’t be dismayed.  Jesus gives us a simple metaphor to follow as disciples. 

In the Jerome Biblical Commentary, Father John L. McKenzie, S.T.D writes how “the function of the disciples is illustrated by the homely metaphors of salt as seasoning and the single lamp that was used in the one-room house of the Palestinian peasant.”  Simple, distinctive, and identifiable.  The late Fr. McKenzie, Professor of Theology, and the author of Authority in the Church and The Power and the Wisdom, was outspoken and critical of complexities, arguing that service rather than secular models of government should define the church’s use of authority.  His explanation of the two images of salt and light refers them to the ‘good works’ of the disciples.  “By living according to the teaching of Jesus, men will manifest the goodness of ‘their father in heaven’ and will praise God because of what they see.”  This image of good works is expanded by mentioning that a salt that loses flavor, or a light under a barrel, tells of those “who fail to realize the ideal of the life of the Gospels will be rejected.”  The disciples will be instructed on how they will become salt and light, and what exactly those good works that glorify God are

So this simile serves as an introduction to the lengthy discourse on the Law and the Gospel (Mt 5: 17-48).  Which begins in next week’s readings, the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time.  Not so ordinary , is it?

In His Service,


3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2011 8:51 pm

    This is cool, dude

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