In the Church’s year, having celebrated the Christmas feasts of the birth of Jesus, his baptism, the Holy Family and the feast of Mary the Mother of God on New Year’s Day, we come back to Ordinary Time.
Ordinary Time speaks to all of us because our lives are made up of the ordinary. The Church’s liturgical year, in a real way, reflects this reality of our lives. There are high points of celebration but for the most part there is the same everyday routine living of life. However, Ordinary Time doesn’t mean that we just coast. Our everyday lives are the really important facts in how our lives are lived, how productive, how happy, how peace-filled they are.
Our own growth in grace and holiness is achieved through the ordinary days of our lives. I like to say that holiness is showing up for life everyday and embracing it.
St. John Neumann of Philadelphia, whose feast we recently celebrated, became a saint because he did the everyday things wholeheartedly and to the best of his abilities.
In my own life, I think of the late Cardinal John Foley, a friend from high school, seminary and Rome, who also had this gift.
Throughout his life Cardinal Foley had a deep faith, a wonderful sense of humor and a willingness to live each day to the fullest. Even when he was facing death he continued to be thoughtful, writing notes to his many friends (his last Christmas card arrived after his death on Dec. 11). He never lost his sense of humor and his single-hearted devotion to Jesus.
Both Johns, Neumann and Foley, found that the road to holiness is found in doing the everyday, humdrum routine things of life with a sense of conscientiousness, putting our best efforts into them.
As we get older, as we retire, and enter into that every-growing population known as senior citizens, we wonder how our lives can be fruitful, how we can continue to make a difference. This time of life is a wonderful opportunity. We are free of the distraction of the everyday work week. We have so many opportunities for growth and deepening our relationship with God and our families.
This highway to holiness becomes clearer in our more mature years. We have time to participate in daily Eucharist, time to read, to pray, to take some enrichment courses. My desire is that in each of our parishes we have active senior programs that provide an opportunity for socializing and also for growing in our knowledge and living of our faith.
Many cultures have valued what are called wisdom figures, those older people who have accumulated experience and knowledge and are able to mentor the young. There is a real place in our present day and time for these wisdom figures. Our parishes are able to provide opportunities and platforms for our seniors to be recognized, not merely for what they have done but for what they can contribute to the life of the Church.
Wisdom is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Even though Confirmation may have been received years ago, gifts of the spirit perdure.
I would recommend that all of us who have received these gifts of the Holy Spirit pray especially for that gift of wisdom so as the years accumulate, so may wisdom and grace, in times both ordinary and extraordinary.