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After celebrating the Birth of the Lord Jesus and the various holy days surrounding it, the Church brings us back to Ordinary Time. The liturgical season is an opportunity to hear the Gospel again and recommit ourselves to the Lord Jesus and his most excellent way of love.
With this emphasis in mind, we could say that the buzzword for Ordinary Time is discipleship. And, truly, such a work is greatly needed today. The struggle of the Church is a struggle with discipleship.
As believers, do we understand what it means to be a disciple of the Lord? Are we seeking every day to fulfill the upward calling we have received in Jesus Christ?
During Ordinary Time, we are invited to perceive anew why it’s important to have a relationship with the Lord. The grace of faith is poured into us at baptism. If we’re not careful, this grace can sit in our souls and never fully be used.
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Two words that stand out in this explanation are “assurance” and “conviction.”
Pope St. John Paul II continues in the spirit of these two words when he writes in his encyclical, Splendor of Truth: “Faith is a decision involving one’s whole existence. It is an encounter, a dialogue, a communion of love and life between the believer and Jesus Christ, the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. It entails an act of trusting abandonment to Christ, which enables us to live as he lived in profound love of God and of our brothers and sisters.”
Following the example and counsel of St. Paul, we have to “rekindle the gift of God” that we have received. We are called to realize what we have been given in Baptism and then seek ways to grow in our faith, which includes making a personal decision for Jesus Christ.
Pope St. John Paul II teaches us in the encyclical Mission of the Redeemer: “From the outset, conversion is expressed in faith which is total and radical, and which neither limits nor hinders God’s gift. At the same time, it gives rise to a dynamic and lifelong process which demands a continual turning away from “life according to the flesh” to “life according to the Spirit.” Conversion means accepting, by a personal decision, the saving sovereignty of Christ and becoming his disciple.”
As we grow in our understanding of Christian baptism and its summons for us to make a personal decision for Jesus Christ, we are led to the other sacraments, to prayer, instruction in the faith, holy fellowship with other believers, and to a selfless service of the poor, sick, and those in need.
As an example, after accepting the graces of conversion and being baptized, Saint Paul realized that he needed time with the Lord and formation in the Christian way of life. He went and spent some time in the desert of Arabia, and then sought out St. Peter and sat at his feet for instruction. One can only imagine the humility of Saint Paul. He was one of the most educated Roman Jews of his day, a student of the great rabbi Gamaliel and a Roman citizen, and he sought instruction from a Galilean fisherman. Saint Paul knew he needed formation, and he sought guidance and direction.
Rekindling the gift he received from God at baptism, and nurtured by his prayer and instruction, Saint Paul was able to make – and constantly renew – a personal decision for Jesus Christ.
Saint Paul understood the full depth of that declaration in his life, as he wrote: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
In our own lives, as we seek to rekindle the gift of God that we received at baptism, we are called to live the Christian way of life. We are convicted to live as the Lord Jesus lived, to love as he loved, and to serve as he served. Such a vocation is not easy. It calls for constant renewal and conversion. And this realization is the key to fully understanding the opportunity and the challenge of Ordinary Time.