Last Sunday, the liturgical calendar shifted into ordinary time after the Easter season and spirit-filled Pentecost. So, too a “complete re-opening” across the U.S. is slowly beginning after nearly a year and a half of pandemic protocols, promising a return to “ordinary time.” Yet the stormy waters of the global pandemic continue to wreak havoc across the earth, reminding us of the great losses of life that we continue to mourn even as hope and deepening faith emerge from our grief – reminding us of the compassion and solidarity that must grow out of our losses to reach out to others in need and shared vulnerability. What is ordinary for us during these times? “…the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” What does it mean to be a “new creation” in Christ?
In Mark’s gospel, stories of healing from physical and psychic ailments bring wholeness and relief from suffering to the forefront. The geographic scope of Jesus’ mission expands as he moves beyond the boundaries of Galilee, because God’s unconditional love is for all, not just one group or region. “Let us cross to the other side” of the Sea of Galilee crosses a symbolic boundary between Jew and Gentile; the region to the west of the Sea was mainly Jewish in population, while on the eastern shore the population was mainly Gentile. Do the stormy waters and violent winds reflect the fears of cultural and religious differences? “Quiet! Be still!” is directed at both internal and external turbulent seas.
The pandemic has also revealed the fault lines of systemic racism and other inequities, where fear continues to drive the cycle of racial trauma, and history seems to keep repeating itself. Yet just as present is the nonviolent resistance to hate and fear, the prophetic call for structural change, personal transformation, and a resilience that reaches out across differences. Being the new creation in Christ empowers us to live mission, crossing to the other side, loving unconditionally as we see each other as another in God’s kinship, rather than the feared other. Living God’s kinship in the gift of God’s created diversity brings into being the new creation in each other, with the earth, and with each other. This is what it means to live in ordinary times! “The love of Christ cannot be confined (or hoarded); like the flame – our love must expand or it will die.” Mary Joseph Rogers, 1948 – Foundress of the Maryknoll Sisters.
In the words of Servant of God, Nicholas Black Elk 1866-1950 (Lakota medicine man and Catholic catechist, cause for canonization opened in 2017) may the “first peace” be always with each one of you, as we move together into ordinary time: “The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes from within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.”