Just the other day, at the jubilee celebration of my parish – Mary Help of Christians' Chinese Parish – Archbishop Richard Smith spoke about the need for a Christian compass leading contemporary Christians.
There and then, my liturgical instinct took the better of me – where does a Christian come in contact with a Christian navigational compass or GPS, other than in the eternal liturgical year?
The recessional rite, "Go in peace alleluia, alleluia," on Pentecost Sunday, announced the end of Easter, and ushers in Ordinary Time.
What is ordinary about Ordinary Time? This question becomes legitimate, having just finished celebrating the high points of our faith – Nativity, at the end of Advent; Passover, at the end of Lent; and Trinity Sunday, the summary of the liturgical year.
It is obvious that two pieces of information are indispensable for the functioning of a GPS (Global Positioning System): points of departure and destination. Every GPS is useless without this key information cued into it. Indeed, a Christian life is a voyage, from God back to God. Knowing and accepting one's beginning is the guarantee of knowing one's end.
Just as a GPS guarantees the conveyance and guidance of a person by positioning them between their departure and destinations, so does a liturgical year pave the way for the knowledge and navigation of the human person from birth to death.
Consequently, the Ordinary Time of the liturgical year celebrates that period of human life between birth and death. Christmas or Nativity celebrates the birth of Christ, and Passover or Easter celebrates the death and resurrection of Christ.
If Ordinary Time comes at the end of Easter, but before Christmas, it is to indicate how to spend our human existence between birth and death, drawing our inspirations from the events of Christ's life. Our Christian GPS or the liturgical year, places us in Ordinary Time, so as to offer us the opportunity to practise virtue.
The ordinariness of Ordinary Time springs from the fact that God meets us in our daily living; our family and industrial chores and labours are the media for working out our salvation, through our services of God and humanity.
If any lessons were learned from the celebrations of our liturgical year, our daily lives are the co-op and internship opportunities to practise them.
In other words, Ordinary Time asks just one question of each one of us: are you a Christian? If yes, does your daily life show that to those who live and work with you, just by seeing what you do?
Anthony De Mello told the story of a man who, as an adolescent, was a crusader, and he wanted to transform the whole world – what a grandiose project. When the same man turned 40, he wanted to change people around him, downsizing his project.
At 80, he wanted only to change himself; then he concluded: "If I had worked at changing myself, my life long, I would have succeeded!"
How true the words of late Mahatma Gandhi: "I like your Christ . . . You Christians are so unlike your Christ." But Ordinary Time is the opportunity to prove Gandhi wrong.
In the sixth century, Pope Leo the Great says this: "Every day you provide your bodies with good food to keep them from failing. In the same way, your good works should be the daily nourishment of your hearts. Your bodies are fed with food and your spirits with good works. You aren't to deny your soul, which is going to live forever, what you grant to your body, which is going to die."
The diet of the liturgical year, like the electric power which keeps a GPS going, are the Gospel events, narrated and documented in the canons of Scripture. As St. Jerome said, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."
The ability to incarnate the words of Scriptures and make them concrete and visible in our lives and society is the project called Ordinary Time. Like De Mello's story, it is time to transform ourselves first.
Rise to action, for Ordinary Time calls. Swing into action, for our society searches for authentic Christians. Stand up to be counted, for virtue is in short supply. Raise your head, for witnesses are needed. Shout aloud, for the gospel needs messengers like you. Light a candle, for Christ our light, through you, conquers all darkness.
Spiritan Father Ayodele Ayeni is a sessional lecturer at Newman Theological College and pastor of Mary Help of Christians (Chinese) Parish in Edmonton.