The Season After Pentecost – Ordinary Time

The Feast of Pentecost, one of the Church’s principal feasts, was celebrated just a few days ago on Sunday, May 31, 2009. We have now entered the Season after Pentecost. The Sundays during this time all seem the same. The liturgical color stays green and not much changes. There are few major feasts or celebrations. We are in what is sometimes referred to as ordinary time.

One liturgical scholar has described the Season after Pentecost as “the time in which we actually live—the period between Pentecost and the Second Advent.” Once again the liturgical cycle is revealing a truth about our lives. The Season after Pentecost is the longest season of the church year reflecting that most of our life is spent in the “in between” times—in between the big exciting events of life. For the most part our life consists of ordinary everyday stuff.

Nothing seems to change, the routine is established and one day is like the next. But if we will allow it to ordinary time strips away the outer stuff to help us see and trust the inner world. It means we must live from the inside out. The Season after Pentecost invites us to look within instead of looking around, to find the extraordinary in the ordinary, and to allow our ordinary everyday life to become our prayer.

When we truly live the Season after Pentecost we discover that every moment is sacramental, nothing is just ordinary, and the Kingdom of God is within.  Perhaps the greatest impediment to discovering and living the sacrament of the moment is the busyness of the moment.

Most of us have our life structured by calendars and task lists. They tell us where to go, when to be there, and what to do. For the most part things run fairly smoothly. We keep our appointments. We show up on time. Tasks are completed and crossed off the list.

Our schedules may be organized but what about our lives? What about that scattered, chaotic, restless feeling that comes from way down deep inside of us? It seems that no matter how well we stick to our schedule or how many tasks we accomplish the feeling that there is or should be something more is still around. And then it strikes us – our tools of organization often serve only to document how disordered our lives have become!

St. Augustine said that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. “Resting in God” sounds like a great idea but many of us think we are too busy to take time to rest in God. And if we can just do or schedule a little bit more, then maybe that restless feeling will go away. My experience, however, is that it never completely goes away. That restless feeling is God calling to us.

We may not have “resting in God” written on our calendar but the Church does. It is called the Season after Pentecost. During this time God is calling us to rest in God’s presence, to experience his love, and live our Christian faith in ordinary everyday life. It is a reminder of and a time to acknowledge and experience God’s presence and God’s faithfulness in the mundane day-to-day stuff of our lives. I sometimes call it “sacred monotony.”

Resting in God does not mean that we simply sit around and do nothing. And it does not necessarily mean that we have to give up our daily schedule and tasks – though some changes might be in order. Everything we do – work, study, play – can be considered as prayer in the sense that what we do and who we are connects us to the reality of God.

Laundry, working, car-pooling, family obligations, cooking, shopping, paying the bills, home repairs, going to the doctor, running errands, school and studying, vacation…. You know as well as I that the list goes on and on. Our calendar says look at all we have to do. The Church offers us the Season after Pentecost and says look at all the opportunities you have to practice resting in God.

Many of the things we have on our calendar and to-do lists are the result of prior relationships and blessings. So maybe we go through our day with thanksgiving – for the food we have to cook, the clothes we have to wash, the house we have to repair, for the friends or family we are feeding, the kids we are car-pooling, and the doctors who care for us.

This is the ancient practice of mindfulness. Ordinary life becomes our prayer. Abandonment to Divine Providence (also known as The Sacrament of the Present Moment) by Jean-Pierre de Caussade and The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence are classic books teaching about this practice. As we continue in the practice of mindfulness our focus shifts from the task to be completed to the underlying blessings and relationships and we find ourselves resting in God.

Thomas Merton, a 20th century Trappist monk, explained it like this:

The requirements of a work to be done can be understood as the will of God. If I am supposed to hoe a garden or make a table, then I will be obeying God if I am true to the task to be done. To do the work carefully and well, with love and respect for the nature of my task and with due attention to its purpose, is to unite myself with God’s will in my work.

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