BEFORE THE CROSS | Move on with a renewed attitude, energy

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

Lisa Johnston |
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The transition to Ordinary Time is one of the most stunning transitions we Catholics make. We've been basking in the glory of the Easter season for 50 days. It's Pentecost, and we're celebrating the gifts of the Spirit. Then we wake up the next day and it's "Ordinary Time." That can seem like such a letdown.

But if we take it as a letdown, we miss the point: Receiving the Holy Spirit — being filled with Jesus' own life — is supposed to become the fundamental pattern of everyday life.

The Gospel readings for the week after Pentecost indicate that, in their own way. We start with Mark 9 — the middle of the Gospel — because that's where we left off before Lent. That's right: We're picking up right where we left off. We're back at the same task, but we're coming at it now with new energy — the energy of Lent and Easter and Pentecost. That's what our transition to Ordinary Time is all about.

OK, you may be saying, that's a great idea — to make Pentecost a daily reality. But what does it mean in practical terms?

Interestingly, the readings this week from the Letter of James give us a primer on what it means in practical, everyday terms.

James contrasts "the wisdom that is earthly, unspiritual, demonic" with "the wisdom from above." The first is characterized by bitter jealousy, selfish ambition and boastfulness. The second is characterized as peaceable, gentle and full of mercy. Those characteristic attitudes are pretty good channel markers to let us know, in practical terms, when we're staying with the Spirit and when we're straying from the Spirit.

All week long, James talks to us not simply about what we do, but about the attitude with which we do it. And that's a very practical way to approach the question of what it means to live "in the Spirit" in Ordinary Time. Ask yourself the question: In the midst of all my activities today, what has been my predominant attitude? Does that attitude have the characteristics of wisdom from above, or does it display the characteristics of wisdom from below?

Flippancy and sarcasm are notably absent from the attitudes Jesus shows in the Gospels. As flippancy and sarcasm come up in our lives, we are departing from the Spirit of Jesus. That's as practical as it gets.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up the mountain to experience the Transfiguration. This week we read that when they came back down, there was work awaiting them. They were called to approach that work with a new attitude, in light of their experience on the mountain.

The same is true of us. Jesus has taken us up the mountain to experience Lent, Easter and Pentecost. Now we're coming back down and work awaits us. But we're called to approach that work with a new attitude.

That's what it means to go from Pentecost into Ordinary Time. The Letter of James gives us practical guidance on how to do it and for measuring how we're doing each day. 

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