This week is the “Second Week of Ordinary Time” in the liturgical calendar. Your church bulletin, like mine, may have had “The Second Sunday of Ordinary Time” printed on the cover. That seems to make sense numerically, that the second week begins with the second Sunday. Yet the Sunday prior was The Feast of The Baptism of Our Lord - part of the Christmas season!
Wait! Then when was the First Sunday of Ordinary Time?
Fortunately, a priest explained this numerical conundrum at Mass this week, and now I am passing along this knowledge. Buckle up.
First, let me explain about Epiphany. In the United States, some feast days are observed on a different day than the rest of the world. In the U.S., we always celebrate Epiphany (supposed to be January 6th ) on a Sunday, and Ordinary Time always starts on the Monday after the Sunday after the 6th of January.
There is always a Sunday after the Epiphany where we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord, and then Ordinary Time starts the next day.
So Monday starts the First Week of Ordinary Time, and is correctly referred to as “The Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time”. In the U.S. calendar, we follow a Sunday-Saturday setup, so even if it’s not a complete week, those six days after Jesus’s Baptism make up “the first week”. Then it comes to the Sunday after the Baptism. This is the
beginning of our traditional Sun-Sat calendar week. Thus it is the beginning of the Second Week of Ordinary Time. That makes it “The Sunday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time” - its proper title, not the shorter but more confusing and less accurate “Second Sunday in Ordinary Time” that we usually call it.
If you were able to make it through all of that, God bless you. It’s a little tricky and a lot of semantics. But all of this word finagling is actually because of the title of this season, “Ordinary Time”. Although this is a time where we are not celebrating any single celebration for an extended period of time, it is not entitled ordinary because it is blah or not exciting. It is actually called ordinary time because of “ordinal” numbers.
Ordinal numbers are “first”, “second”, “third”, etc
Cardinal numbers are “one”, “two”, “three”, etc.
So this time of year is named because there are 33 or 34 weeks (depending on the year) of it (that’s a lot!), so ordinal numbers are used to keep track of them. Ordinal numbers mean something. You know what it means when we say first, second, or third. There is a value to it. You cannot tell me that third place performed better than first place in a race. That would be nonsense. Numbers have a value attributed to them. We as a society may have
decided what word describes that value, but there will still be the same number of apples in this picture whether you call it “THREE” or “LAJUR”.
The same is true for human beings. We may call each other a number of different things. We may even place a value on different skills we acquire, but the true value of each of us was pre-designated by God and God alone. He looked at you and he found you to be priceless. He looked at you and decided that you were worth dying for, even in the most painful way of being beaten and hung on a cross.
This value He gave you is what the Catholic Church refers to as “human dignity”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The dignity of the human person is rooted in his/her creation in the image and likeness of God.” (CCC 1700) It is not attributed to you because you are good at sports. You can’t earn dignity by being smart. You as a person have an undefinable value just because you are, because you are a child of God.
So many times the world tells us otherwise. It can make us feel worthless, but God doesn’t see us that way. He sees each of us as this beautiful child that He loves. God views every single human this way. Sometimes we can be “the world” telling others that they are worthless. This is not the Christian thing to do. We must see the human dignity in each and every person, no matter their skin color, their religion, or how much they annoy you or do terrible things. Even the most difficult to love are still worthy of it.
This can be a difficult thing to remember, but one that is so important. This week I hope you will show everyone the dignity that they deserve. Be conscientious of those you pass by in the office or on the street. Try smiling at each person you pass by. This simple acknowledgement might mean the world to them. When others are frustrating you or making your life harder, don’t lash out in anger. I know it can be hard, but try to show them
love, even if that means keeping quiet and praying for you and them to both have Christ unharden your heart so that you may see eye to eye better. We interact with the people around us in the most ordinary ways that we sometimes overlook them. But as we learned today, even though this time of year is called “ordinary time” this doesn’t mean that it is not exciting and full of love and joy.