20 Jan Second Second in Ordinary Time
January 19th, 2020
Deacon Blaine Barclay
Today is the 2nd Sunday of ‘Ordinary Time’. Ordinary Time’ is not ordinary in our regular way of using the term. Over half the liturgical year is made up of the 34 numbered Sundays of ordinary time, so it is important that we get it right. It is a time focused on the public life, teaching and ministry of Jesus. It’s Liturgical colour is green which represents hope and growth. It calls us to ongoing conversion, and maturity in the life of being a disciple of Jesus. To live in our own time and place, the ongoing mission of Jesus. Following in the footsteps of Jesus’ public ministry, to live our lives ordered towards missionary discipleship. To measure all time according to the mission of Jesus Christ. Ordinary time turns out to be quite extra-ordinary.
This of course means that we are all called to holiness, to be holy in the midst of our ordinary everyday lives. St. Paul in our second reading today puts it this way. Addressing “the Church of God that is in Corinth”, he says, “to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to saints”. Paul assumes that they are all called to be Saints. The Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2013 puts it this way, “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.” All are called to holiness”…. And again at # 2014, “Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ.”
So holiness finds its source in cultivating a relationship of ‘intimacy and friendship with Jesus’. Holiness is not something we can earn or achieve by our own efforts. Pulling up our moral or spiritual boot straps, finally getting our trip together, getting back in the game, so to speak. Straightening out our all too crooked halos. Only G-d is Holy. ‘Holy, Holy, Holy… we sing. Human Holiness is always only a participation in God’s Holiness. Everything is grace, everything is God’s self communication in Christ. Holiness is intimacy with God. Being set apart for God in the ordinariness of our everyday lives, including our struggles. Jesus is God’s Intimacy with our humanity right down to the bottom. Jesus is “the Way”, to God. Participation in his Human Nature is the path to participation in his Divine Nature. Jesus is our holiness. Ordinary time points us toward this participation in the person and mission of Christ.
Concretely, how does this work? Our first reading from Isaiah gives us a hidden clue. The prophet Isaiah knows himself to be, ‘formed in the womb to be God’s servant’. Why? Isaiah tells that his mission is, “To bring ‘Jacob’ back to him, and that ‘Israel’ might be gathered to him.” What is the significance of this ‘Jacob coming back to God’, and ‘Israel being gathered’? Historically, Jacob and Israel are the same person. Jacob struggles, he fights with his brother, he deceives his father, steals the inheritance. Jacob wanders in the desert of his own alienation and finally encounters the living God. He meets an angel, wrestles with the angel all night, and is forever changed by the experience. To name the change, the conversion, the transformation, Jacob is given a new name. After this experience, Jacob will be called Israel, a name which means ‘to wrestle with God’, to contend or struggle with God.
To be Israel is to be one who wrestles with God. To be the Church, grafted on to the vine that is Israel, the new Israel, sanctified, set apart for God, called to be holy, is to also embrace a life of wrestling with God. A kind of ‘athletics of the soul’. One author, Leon Bloy, says, “ there is only one tragedy in life, not to be a Saint”. The tragedy of being so self satisfied, so absorbed in our average everydayness, that we chose not to wrestle with God, in our prayer, in our practice of the faith, in our struggle to make sense of our lives. In a way, each one of us is a Jacob, ‘called back’ to God, called to conversion; and each one of us is Israel, called and gathered by our baptism, given a new name and a new identity. Called to Holiness, “called to be Saints”. The question we are left with is, how will we wrestle with this call?