And so it’s Ordinary Time again. Even the die-hard observers of the liturgical season of Christmas have pulled down their trees and their nativity scenes. And it’s not even the first day of Ordinary Time anymore. Every Monday is at least special as the first day of the work week, but Tuesdays… We can really feel that times like today are “ordinary” in the negative sense (although this is not the sense in which the Church uses the term). But the prayer given by the Church as the Collect for ferial days this week (the prayer at the beginning of Mass on the days when we don’t celebrate any particular saint), gives some guidance for these times which can seem “ordinary.” In this prayer we are invited to pray that we “may see what must be done and gain strength to do what [we] have seen.”
But what exactly are we supposed to see? I contend that in the first reading for this first Tuesday in Ordinary Time that this part of the petition has already been answered. The first reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews and speaks of Christ as “the leader to [our] salvation” (Heb 2:10). If he is our leader, then it is he whom we should see. We have to keep our eyes on our leader. And when we look to him we see also “what must be done”: our leader was made “perfect through suffering” (Heb 2:10). As our leader he is meant to be followed. If he was made perfect (in his leadership towards us) through suffering, then we also must follow our leader and be perfected in suffering as well.
How must we suffer? There are all kinds of suffering to which God may call you or me, but the easiest place to begin is with the people and events that he has already placed before me. Perhaps there is a person or a responsibility that I attempt to avoid. Or that I complain about because I find it unpleasant. Or even small opportunities to give of myself more fully than I have previously, to grow beyond my self-centered way of looking at things. Carrying our cross in the smallest, seemingly most insignificant ways is the first step in entering into the suffering of “what must be done.”
So now we see what must be done. We must be perfected through suffering. But thank God that he also answers the second part of our petition: he also gives us “strength to do what we have seen.” Indeed, every time we join our hearts to him in prayer, especially at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, God fills us with the strength to do those things, with his very own life and Spirit. Those little things we can never seem to change, those spiritual New Year’s resolutions that are always too much for our own strength, God makes possible one step at a time through his grace working and living in us. And when we have seen what must be done and received the strength to do it, he will bring us, his many children, “to glory” (Heb 2:10) with our heavenly leader.
Photo by Julian Howard