We’re entering the last full week of Ordinary Time until late May! Lent starts next week with Ash Wednesday Feb. 17, followed by the Easter season, concluding with Pentecost on May 23. It’s a period of 96 days and, interestingly, experts say it takes 90 days to establish a new habit. What do we hope for the coming Lent and Easter — what new habit do we want to re-enter Ordinary Time with on May 24?
If we listen carefully, the readings this week make a suggestion. We’re hearing the creation accounts from Genesis. One of their principal refrains is: “Then God said … And so it happened.” God’s word, in the Hebrew conception, isn’t just informative. It doesn’t simply tell us about things. Instead, God’s word is performative — it makes things happen.
We see that same pattern in Jesus’ life. “Jesus said: I will it. Be made clean. And the leper was cleansed immediately.” “Jesus said: Quiet. Be still. And the storm disappeared, and the sea was calm.” It’s a clear echo of the creation account: “Then Jesus said … And so it happened.”
In fact, because Jesus is the Word made flesh, He doesn’t even need to speak! His very presence makes things happen. And so people are drawn to Him.
Catholic piety would say that’s why people are drawn to Mary, as well: her presence makes things happen. But if Catholic piety knows that from experience, Catholic theology is able to explain why. Mary makes things happen because her life is fully immersed in the Word of God, her Son. She makes things happen because He lives in her.
And that, I propose, is something we might hope for — and work on — in the coming days of Lent and Easter: letting our lives be more fully immersed in the Word of God. Ninety-six days spread out before us. It takes 90 days to create a new habit. There are 89 chapters in the four Gospels. What if we took 5 to 10 minutes each day to read one chapter of the Gospel — either silently, or even out loud?
On one level, it’s not that big a deal. You might be looking for a bigger penance! On another level, think about what we would be doing: letting the Word of God enter our eyes, our minds, and our hearts. Letting the Word of God become the measure of our words. In other words: letting the Word of God live in us. Might we make things happen, and might people be drawn to Christ in us, if we did so?
We could do it first thing in the morning, instead of turning on the news. Then the Word of God would be the first thing we encounter, and could set the tone for our entire day.
We could do it last thing at night, instead of watching a video. Then the Word of God would be the capstone of our day, and set the tone for our rest.
The Word of God is still performative — it makes things happen. We might spend the coming days of Lent and Easter inviting the Word to live in us. Then, when we re-enter Ordinary Time in late May, people might be drawn to Christ in us, and the Word of God might make things happen through us.