Ordinary time

Anthony Towey

As the excitement of the celebratory Sundays of Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity and Corpus Christi gives way to the more predictable sequence typical of the Cycle A readings, there can be a temptation to settle into a kind of liturgical automatic pilot. Since almost by definition, Ordinary Time connotes a low expectation, low octane period, there is a danger of spiritual switch off until Advent when the cycle of special times starts again.

This temptation is exacerbated by the prevailing Western mindset whereby time is something of an empty category stretching out ahead of us. We organize time with our diaries and planners, mastering our futures with perhaps misplaced confidence. Yet the Hebrew conceptualization of time was somewhat different - it was much more closely identified with event.

We note in Genesis that the first day is understood to be the first day not because twenty four hours have elapsed, but because an evening and a morning have taken place (Gen. 1:5). The month is marked by the moon and the rural realities of sowing and harvesting eventually mark the year. Beautifully, the week is marked by Shabbat, a day where the slave and even the ox and donkey can rest from labour in order to contemplate the wonder of God and creation (Gen. 2.3). There is charm as well as truth in the idea that to live a long life, to 'wax old' was to be 'full of days' (2 Chron. 24:15) and the understanding of a lifetime as a constellation of events is put most lyrically in the famous passage of Ecclesiastes 3.1:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die

If time is event then there is a sense in which it is never ordinary, life itself becomes more a case of how attentive we are rather than how 'long' we live - at least as much a matter of staying awake as staying alive. In debunking our common conceptualization of time, Einstein pointed out its relativity. 'Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That's relativity.' This cosmic yet commonplace view is disarmingly holistic since it makes time and life, more or less what we make of them. I'm reminded of a classic anecdote told by a friend who while living in a religious house, answered the door to a tramp looking for money with the disclaimer, 'Sorry - I can't give you anything - I don't really live here - I'm just passing through'. 'Yes Father,' came the reply, 'but we are all just passing through... '

We are indeed 'all passing through' and the death of our beloved editor reminds us of that. Yet if our faith teaches us anything it is not that we are passing through but how we are passing through which actually defines us. To that end, this issue will take stock of some of the achievements of Michael Hayes and the impression he made on just some of the people who knew him and worked alongside him in ministry and academia. the Pastoral Review has also taken this opportunity to reprint an important article by Michael on the theological disposition for ministry which epitomizes his thinking and first appeared in its sister publication New Diaconal Review.

Thereafter, I think it is possible to see that the various contributions which make up the rest of the current issue once more exemplify Michael's constructive inclusivity. Articles on formation, encounter, RCIA, spirituality in schools, pilgrimage and care for the elderly as well as book reviews on Fatima and the sermons of Oscar Romero demonstrate a range of concerns, insights and pastoral practicality. And weaving the liturgical tapestry, the reflections on the Sunday and daily readings provide, as always, nourishment and sanctification of our ordinary time.

Alan Murphy, who led the MA in Catholic School Leadership at St Mary's for many years, described Michael as 'one of the few people whom I would call an educational visionary'. I think this is true, and while it meant life wasn't dull, being a visionary could have consequences for colleagues. Here at St Mary's, we once teased him after a sermon in the University Chapel that it was the first time he had stood up in public for four years and not announced a new degree, short course or academic initiative. He took it all in good humour but needless to say, he didn't back off in terms of leadership: 'We have to do the work,' he would say, 'This is our time'.

We have to do the work, this is our time. If 'the life and death of each of us has its influence on others' (Rom. 14.7), if our calling is to 'live life to the full' (John 10.10) and to 'put out into the deep' (Luke 5.4), then Michael has left us good examples as a priest and professor, editor and executive, teacher and therapist, as a brother, son and friend. If we are to witness to his legacy, to the faith of his family and his homeland, then our work should be thoughtful, eventful, cheerful, generous, audacious and pastoral. For even on an ordinary day, the love of Christ renders time eternal.

For now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect, but then I shall know as fully as I am known. For only these three abide, faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13.12-13).