In the Church's calendar we are now in Lent and have just moved through the first annual installment of what is known as Ordinary Time. There are thirty-four of these weeks throughout the year, a sort of sacred breathing space between the liturgical seasons, writes Ann Rennie.
Not long ago, we celebrated Australia Day, a secular feast day that marks our unity as a people.
We might come from different lands and have different customs and strange accents and other gods, but we have much to share. We share the daily task of making a living, looking after family, attending somehow to the beating heart of society.
Despite the siren songs of the corporate and consumer gods, compassion and goodwill and neighbourly kindness are still what make us, as a nation, tick.
And it is in the ordinary everyday Australian, the good mate, that we know things are in good hands. And around the barbie or at the beach or in the boardroom we are trying hard to work out that cultural conundrum - what it means to be "un-Australian". We still believe we live in the land of the fair go.
Australia Day effectively marks the end of the school holidays. It is time for the year to really begin to shape up, to thrust its way forward, as ordinary folk go about the business of being anonymous good citizens, doing their unsung bit, whinging only occasionally about the price of petrol, climate change and their footy team’s prospects this year.
We spend most of our lives in ordinary time, but this must not be dismissed as unimportant because it is prosaic, daily, uneventful.
Just a month or so ago, many Queenslanders were experiencing flooding rains. Two months ago, Tasmania was terrorised by bushfires. This is the Australia that can be cruel to those who live on her land, this earth mother who nourishes and brutalises, who can orchestrate fine to fierce in one sweep of the clock, who can soul-destroy in deluge.
As we watch the news what we see is the best of us helping out, volunteering, sandbagging, evacuating, displaying that famed "Aussie spirit" which says much of who we are as a people. When the going gets tough, the tough - and the tender and the tenacious - get going.
Sometimes it is through events such as those we have just experienced, that we realise there is something special about being Australian. We have grit and grace in the muck and mud. We pull together.
There is much to be said for holy holding pattern of the ordinary which the Church will re-enter after Pentecost; the daily, unnamed, unbidden goodness that transpires between father and son, teacher and student, nurse and patient.
There is even more to be said for the heroism of the neighbour who helps a family at risk or the CFA crewman who battles the fire breathing red dragon who devours timbered acres and dry grass plains.
An avalanche of kindness and practicality is unleashed when strangers band together to help those who have suffered the scourges of our capricious climate.
We might be living in ordinary time in the Church calendar, but these are times in many lives that are anything but ordinary.
They are bewildering, unexpected, sad and angry times as families look at their losses and wonder how they will ever start again. But they will because that's one of the gifts we have been given - the gift of grit and grace and goodwill.
We might celebrate our good fortune on Australia Day, but it is how we live, day in and day out, in good times and bad, with her beauty and her terror, that defines us as a people.
Ann Rennie is a Melbourne writer who also teaches senior students in a Catholic girls' school. Her book The Secret Garden of Spirituality (Reflections on Faith, Life and Education), was published in 2011 by Michelle Anderson. Flickr image from cowley_mail.
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