Monday, January 13, 2014

Ordinary Time

We leave the Christmas season now and enter what is called ordinary time. That is where we experience most of our journey with God. We remember the big moments. The moments of conversion and the spiritual highs. They are the exception and not the rule. Spiritual growth needs to happen primarily in the slow and steady mode of ordinary time. We get on the road when we convert but it is the walking of that road day after day that really changes our lives. The Christmas and Easter Catholic can never make spiritual progress. This is why the church makes clear that in order to remain in a state of grace you need to go to mass every Sunday.

We grow spiritually the same way we grow physically. It is so slow we don't notice it. We just need to be sure we are eating right, getting exercise and avoiding sicknesses. Eating corresponds to regularly reading the word and receiving the sacraments of Confession and Communion. Exercise means being active in service. Do the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy. Find some way to apply your faith in a practical setting. Avoiding sickness obviously refers to sin. Those things the catechism calls gravely evil? Don't do them. If you do, go to confession.

Spiritual growth is not something we can make happen. If we are healthy it will happen. We are children of God. Growing is what happens when children are healthy. We don't tell our children to get busy with growing. They just do.

Looking at the gospel we see John the Baptist's famous line, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."

It is famous because we  say it every week as part of the Eucharistic liturgy. It is coupled with the words of Rev 19:9, "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." 

These are the two images we have of the mass. We have the mass as sacrifice and we have the mass as a wedding feast. This is the road we are walking. We are on the road to Calvary and we are on the road to heaven. We need to understand ourselves as deeply sinful and yet dearly loved by God. We are bad enough to require Jesus sacrifice Himself for our sins yet we are loved enough that Jesus does this for us. The good news is that the love God has for us is stronger than our sin. 

This lamb takes away the sin of the world. He does not just take it away by assuaging God's anger. He takes it away by healing mankind. That is connected to what Ratzinger writes in Introduction to Christianity. This healing of sin is very personal. It is very slow and very painful. Yet it is the way we can experience God's grace every day. We see the lamb of God take away our sin from our heart bit by bit. That is so hard and yet so satisfying because we see our virtues grow and our vices decline as we draw closer to the cross of Jesus.

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