Part of the genius of the Church is the way the liturgy move and breaths with the seasons. As we transition into summer we pass the last Church feast for a while (Corpus Christi) and move into a time of rest that is just a little slower.
We crank down and enjoy the season of green, picnics, and vacations. In the liturgical calendar we call this “Ordinary Time”*. Make no mistake, though, we are in a Church season that is far from common.
(*This designation of “Ordinary Time” comes from the fact that these weeks are measured in consecutive “ordinals” as opposed to being part of a block of liturgical time like The Easter Season, Lent or Advent.)
This is the time of the year when we hear the gospels that tell the story of the work of the nascent Church and how it all got started following the spectacular events of Jesus life and ministry. We read the everyday struggle of the apostles as they spread out over the known world.
Early in June we are reminded of the narrative of Paul, Barnabas, and Mark the Evangelist. Most people will recall the work that Paul and Barnabas did and that Mark created one of the four Gospels. But we also hear the details of their travels that could give anyone pause when things are not going so well. The designation of “apostle” did not give these preachers any immunity from the things that we all struggle with from time to time. Besides their work in the communities of Africa and the Middle East they had their own family struggles. Scripture clearly tells us that in the beginning of their ministries squabble and bad feelings were pervasive. It was not all smooth sailing.
Mark was considerably younger than Paul and Barnabas. He was the son of Paul’s dear friend Mary who actually owned the Cenacle and was cousin to Barnabas. Paul literally watched Mark grow up.
Eager to cultivate the young evangelist, Paul invited Mark along on his first missionary journey with Barnabas. For reasons not stated, Mark did not complete that trip. He went home rather than continue on to Asia Minor. When Paul and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem they began to prepare for the second missionary journey. Barnabas, of course, assumed that his cousin would travel with them again. Paul gave a flat no to that suggestion. He was inflexible about it and that caused a rift between him and Barnabas that lasted quite a while. They did not even speak to each other during that time. There is no mention of Mark by Paul for a period of ten years! Talk about the family feud.
Eventually that rift was healed and the three went on to great works. We even see in Paul’s letter to Timothy that Paul requests Timothy pick up Mark and bring him to Rome. Scholars also note that an undeniable influence of Paul’s thinking can be seen in Mark’s Gospel. So what began as a family disaster, full of insults and hurt feelings, eventually produced amazing fruit.
So the ordinary every day might not be so ordinary. It might be more sacramental than you realize. In every human situation there is always the kernel of hope.
Don’t be so quick to decide that something or someone is completely hopeless. Remember that God’s timetable and our timetable probably don’t match up. Never dismiss anyone or anything as too ordinary for God to care about.
Like Paul, Barnabas, and Mark, great potential always lies just below the surface. That’s called the “benefit of the doubt.” Give it to yourself, your family and anyone you meet.
Copyright © 2013, Kathryn M. Cunningham