Ordinary Time

The Easter season is over after the Feast of Pentecost and we’re into ordinary time in the church year. Unlike other feasts, Pentecost has no octave; ordinary time is its octave. Truth to be told, most of the church year, like most of life, is ordinary time, and that means it’s the time of the Holy Spirit.

The best place to look for the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives in ordinary time is probably the scriptures at Pentecost. Some of them recall the Spirit’s dramatic appearance, but others remind us that the Spirit comes quietly, when we’re hardly aware.

The Spirit dramatically came on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, fifty days after Passover, according to the Acts of the Apostles. (Acts 2,1-11) Strong winds and tongues of fire came upon the disciples gathered in the Upper Room, the Cenacle, and they were filled with energy and joy. Immediately, confidently, they preach the gospel to people from the ends of the earth gathered in Jerusalem for the feast. “Where did these Galileans get all this?” their amazed hearers ask.

“Their message goes out to all the earth,” to Asia Minor, to Rome, Africa, Asia. Occasionally, the Spirit works like this in the church and in the world.

But more often the Holy Spirit comes quietly as an everyday gift. We may prefer strong winds and tongues of fire, but the Spirit mostly comes quietly, in ordinary time.

John’s gospel, read also on the Feast of Pentecost, probably best describes the quiet coming of the Spirit. When the Risen Lord appears to his disciples on Easter Sunday, they’re locked in a room in fear, fallen and dispirited, expecting nothing except that things will get worse. Then, Jesus appears and wishes them peace and shows them the wounds in his hands and side. Then he breathes on them and says “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20,19-23)

What’s more quiet and ordinary than breathing? Yet in this simple act, Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on them. Why does he show them the wounds in his hands and side? They’re signs that everything that evil could do to him was done to him, yet he conquered every evil, even death.

We’re tend to minimize ordinary time. So ordinary. Nothing’s happening, we say. Yet, day by day in ordinary time the Risen Lord offers his peace and shows us his wounds. Every day he breathes the Spirit on us. No day goes by without the Spirit’s quiet blessing.

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