We live in ordinary time, at least according to the Church calendar. So it is written in the Sunday Missal. Ordinary time marks the periods between special feast days like Easter and Christmas. It is part of the history of our faith.
And history it is. Unlike other ancient religions, Christianity puts human affairs on a timeline that intersects with God’s purposes. We exist as Christians both in the now and in days not yet fully accomplished. Christianity has uniquely given the world the idea that time has a beginning, a middle, and an end. We are not just putting in time.
I don’t think many people would say we live in ordinary times. We think about the many changes brought about by technology and human invention and say, we live in extraordinary times. Sometimes this observation is an exclamation at the depth and breadth of human evil. There are things now considered commonplace that even within the space of our lifetime would have been considered scandalous.
We are not alone if we wonder at human evil. Jesus himself remarked in Matthew 11:12 that “from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” The prophet Habakkuk was so scandalized by his times that he sat on the walls of Jerusalem and challenged God to explain what he planned to do about it. The prophet Isaiah looked at the world and commented, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”
Evil tends to have a progress and a creep. Even Jesus himself said about his own times, “If this is what they do when the wood is green, what shall they do when it is dry?”
Which brings me to a question. It is the universal question human beings will ask themselves during the course of their lifetime. Is there justice in the world? If you said no, you are like most people. If you said yes, chances are you mean that there will be justice, eventually. If you answered this way you are likely a Christian. Christianity recognizes that God is doing something about the forces of evil that seem to rule the world.
The history of this fight, is what the Gospel is all about - the Good News that there is a plan. The big picture of this clash of kingdoms, is what makes Bible reading interesting. Jesus is the key. The Old Testament heralds his arrival, and the New Testament celebrates it. When Jesus remarks to is disciples “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” he is noting that the clash with evil began long before the earth as we know it, with a rebellion in Heaven.
Revelation chapter 12 talks about this. “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night... Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”
In the first book of the Bible, Genesis chapter three, we see what is called the Protevangelium, the first appearance of the Gospel message in the timeline of human affairs. The passage occurs after Adam and Eve are tempted in the Garden of Eden. God tells the serpent, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” He means that Mary will birth the Messiah, the one who will deal with the question of evil. He will be bruised on the Cross, but by his death he will crush the serpent under his feet.
This vision of the Gospel is called the Christus Victor theory. It means that Jesus already went to battle on the Cross with all that is evil. It also means that a coming apocalypse will settle the problem of evil once and for all. Will Willimon has spelled it out like this “Eventually, God is going to get the kind of world that God wants”. He is going to have to tear down this world, to get to that one.
It might be a good thing. Last week, the Satanic Temple announced plans to hold its first black mass in Canada. As we know from the Bible that nations are judged, I can only shake my head. Still, it seems like nothing is standing in the way of this rise of evil in the high places. True to form, the Devil is still posing as an angel of light and the event is being heralded as a victory for tolerance, and open minded thinking. I understand that the tickets are already sold out.
And so we wait in the now and the not yet. Will God deal with evil? I do not doubt it. It is part of the big plan. If you look around and feel like a stranger and a pilgrim on this earth, you are not alone. We live in the here and now, in “ordinary time”, but justice will prevail. When it does, according to God’s good purposes, the times will be anything but ordinary.