Ordinary Time is Anything but Ordinary!

Ordinary Time is Anything but Ordinary!


Fr. John Bok, OFM

The Church has a liturgical calendar that begins with Advent and continues for four Sundays. Advent ends on December 24 and is obviously followed by Christmas and the Christmas Season, which ended on January 9 with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. I am writing this on Monday, January 10, the first day of Ordinary Time, the Church’s longest liturgical season.

If you go to the Miriam-Webster Dictionary app on your smartphone and ask the meaning of the word “ordinary,” you will find words like the following: routine, of common quality, deficient in quality, poor, inferior, average, commonplace, cut-and-dried, run-of-the-mill, and unremarkable.

These definitions and synonyms for the English word “ordinary” totally mislead a person as to the real meaning of “ordinary” as used in Ordinary Time. A better translation from the Latin would have been to call this season Ordinal Time.

Remember learning about cardinal numbers and ordinal numbers in grade school? Cardinal numbers are 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. Ordinal numbers are 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. Ordinary Time actually means “numbered” time. There are always 33 or 34 weeks in Ordinary Time and these weeks are all numbered: First Week of Ordinary Time to Thirty-third or Thirty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time.

The 33 or 34 weeks of Ordinary Time are anything but ordinary or run-of-the-mill or unremarkable! The Scripture readings during Ordinary Time tell us about Jesus calling disciples to follow Him and remind us that we are called to follow Him, too. And as we hear about Jesus' ministry of service to others, we are reminded that our most serious responsibility as disciples of Jesus is to put aside our own selves and serve our brothers and sisters in the human family. In the readings during Ordinary Time, Jesus teaches us how to follow Him.

So Ordinary Time focuses us on our call to follow Jesus and teaches us how to do that in a more faithful way. This is our most important responsibility in life as Christian people, and there is nothing “ordinary” about it. Let us ask St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua, two of the most faithful disciples of Jesus, to help us to become ever better followers of Jesus.

Fr. John

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