Ordinary time offers opportunity in present tense


Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson

By Fran Lavelle
One of the things that living in the country teaches you to appreciate is daylight. In the summer months long days are a farmer’s greatest asset. My dad used to say, “You’ve got to make hay while the sun shines.” This adage reflects the reality that there is an appropriate time to do everything. It is excellent advice for all of us. It reminds me of the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3:1, “there is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.“

I’m not sure if it is all environmental, but this time of year, as daylight hours are shorter, I find myself thinking about time. What a beautiful season of harvest, honoring the saints, remembering those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, and giving thanks for our many blessings. The evenings, once filled with a cacophony of sounds coming from insects, frogs, birds and coyotes have been nearly silenced. If one is lucky they can hear the fading sound of crickets.

Crisp fall air, the harvest moon, the smell of burning wood from home chimneys are all welcome reminders that the long hazy hot days of summer have passed. The call to come inside is not just literal. With shorter days and the time change it is as if God is calling us inside to do the interior work faith requires. Unfortunately, in our culture today we are addicted to busyness. We forget the latter part of that agrarian wisdom, “while the sun shines.” We don’t know how to embrace the darkness, the solitude, the quieted moments of life.

In my pursuit to appreciate “time” in a more significant way I found myself inspecting the events of my life. To my surprise, it was not the big events that I ended up focusing on. Rather, I was looking at the nooks and crannies where ordinary life is lived. I told a friend the other day that I wanted to put more living in my life. I was not exactly sure what I meant by this. After some thought, I realized that it is not that I want a more exciting life, a life of glamor or exotic travel. It occurred to me that I want to be more present to the ordinary. This became clear to me one particularly beautiful fall Saturday a few weeks ago I when was mowing the yard. I felt the warm sun on my skin, a gentle breeze was adrift, the smell of fresh cut grass filled the air and I felt so grateful and so alive. My thoughts were uplifted, my heart was full and I found peace in that moment. How could this ordinary event be the source of so much peace? How could I replicate experiences like this more often?

Every day we experience the ordinary. As a matter of fact, I am fixing dinner and have a load of laundry in the washer as I write this. And, no, I’m not floating on a cloud of fresh linens, rosemary or pumpkin spice anything. But it takes work to see gifts in the ordinary. After all, there is a season for everything. My “making hay” tonight looks a lot more like more like fish sandwiches and clean socks but in being present to the task at hand I am anchored in the now. Perhaps that’s the real lesson in this rumination. Perhaps the real challenge is to find ways to be more present, more intentional to the now, not worrying what is to come or what has passed. I recall sharing with a friend a long litany of what was going on in my life. I was focused on who and what needed my attention in the future. He looked at me and said, “I’m here right now.” He was right. I was so focused on what was to come that I did not see what was right before me.

The church in her wisdom gives us different the seasons of the liturgical year. We follow the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in these seasons. Beautifully mixed between these memorable events of the life of Christ is Ordinary time. The weeks of Ordinary time are nearly over for yet another liturgical year. Our challenge is to recognize that every season, be it in the church, nature, or our own life that we are not stringing along disjointed segments of living. If we are mindful and living in the present we find the depth and riches in all of it. The long days of summer and quieted days of winter, the abundance of life in the spring, and the bountiful harvest in the fall. Yes, even making fish sandwiches and doing a load of laundry. “Life gets mighty precious when there’s less of it to waste…” Bonnie Raitt

(Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)