Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary


As the Christmas season draws to a close, we come to the routine of ordinary everyday life. We leave behind the joy, excitement and celebrations and return to our daily normal schedules of earning a living, keeping house, running errands, attending meetings, sending off children to school, or even going to school ourselves.

Today’s Gospel describes what I would imagine to be an ordinary and routine day in the public life of Jesus:

He went around all of Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness among the people. 

We spend most of our days doing the routine and the ordinary. Dramatic conversions like that of St. Paul on the road to Damascus are few and rare. Even the conversion of St. Augustine was preceded by the many years his mother, Monica, spent in daily prayers for her son. Or, the conversion of St. Ignatius was after many days spent convalescing from his battle injuries.

In fact, this is what the Incarnation is about – God becoming man and sharing in the humdrum of our daily existence. The birth of any child is always welcomed with great joy and excitement. Then, in the ordinariness of our daily lives, we discover, define, carve out our personhood and humanity. Yet, there is something in today’s culture that eschews the ordinary. We want constant excitement and to be constantly high.

In this world of the routine and ordinary, we realize that the world is a mixed bag of people and experiences. There are definitely many good persons but there are surely bad ones too. There are experiences and events that uplift and elate but there are also those that depress and deflate. The constant message of the Christmas season has been that there are more reasons for joy rather than for sadness; that big things can come out of small and humble beginnings; that in the overall scheme of things, things do work out for the better in the end.

In the ordinary run of my life then, I will do acts of love and kindness; and let not my acts of love and kindness be random but deliberate as my contribution to helping bring to birth a better world. This is seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary.

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