Art by Olga Bakhtina
Each December my family ventures down to Washington, DC to see the National Christmas Tree. Our visit is less about the tree and more about the trains that circle the tree. Throughout the year, my children stash away pennies in preparation for this annual visit. The challenge is to land pennies in the flatbed cars as they make their way around the tracks or for the truly skilled (or lucky) to knock down the plastic soldiers scattered around the buildings. This year as we reached the tree, we were disappointed to find no trains. The tree itself appeared smaller, too. As we walked around the tree, my one son decided to hurl four pennies into the tree. The tree began to sway and a hidden flock of birds suddenly flew out of the tree. Our family debates the number, but it was impressive. Behind us, we heard gasps of delight and voices exclaiming: “Wow! Was that part of the show?” The surprise exodus of birds coupled with the excited response of the crowd transformed our disappointment into that belly aching kind of laughter and a joy filled night.
Last Sunday closed the Christmas season, and we are now in Ordinary Time. In common usage, ordinary signifies having “no special or distinctive features.” However, its use in the liturgical year stems from the Latin word ordinalis, meaning numbered or ordered, to allow us to number the weeks between Christmas and Lent and between Pentecost and Advent – the two ordinary times in the liturgical year. These weeks invite us to journey alongside Jesus, to immerse ourselves in his life as experienced in the Gospels. We learn from Jesus how to recognize God around us – in our neighbors, in ourselves, and in our experiences. Quite opposite from being ordinary in the sense of undistinguished, these weeks bring about hope for a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and in turn an experience of God’s extraordinary love in our lives. The color of this season, green, represents this hope.
In this Sunday’s Gospel from John, we witness the first of Jesus’ signs of God’s presence and glory in our midst. Mary calls upon Jesus when the wine runs out at the wedding feast. At Jesus’ command, the servants fill six stone jars of 20-30 gallons each with water which then becomes choice wine. The merrymaking of the celebration continues thanks to the abundance of good wine! In this miracle, we come to know the generous love of our God who desires to shower grace upon us. Water used for purification becomes wine for celebration. Jesus’ eventual sacrifice on the Cross leads to the restoration of our relationship with God, hope in the Resurrection, and the sending of the Holy Spirit – all causes for celebration.
My family’s experience of the unexpected exit of a flock of birds from the National Christmas tree all from a few pennies thrown into its boughs turned a disappointing visit into one filled with delight, laughter, and repeated attempts to flush out the remaining birds from the tree! While the birds might view it differently, God’s presence was in that joy – unexpected and abundant.
In these weeks of Ordinary Time, let us pray for the gift of recognizing God’s presence in our lives and especially a deepening of our relationship with Jesus, that we may know of God’s abundant love. Visit our website for more ways to engage in your faith or reach out to the pastoral staff. We are here to serve you. Peace. - Anne Marie Kaufmann