The sacredness of the ‘ordinary’
Posted: Thu, 10 Jun 2021 13:03
We have just experienced four months of liturgical highlights as we have celebrated the Lent and Easter seasons: we have journeyed from Ash Wednesday to Trinity Sunday via Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Resurrection Day and Pentecost. Our liturgical colours have gone from purple, pink, red and gold to white.
We are now back to so-called 'ordinary time' with our next season change some months away. However, with the gifts of both Creation and Incarnation, can anything be seen to be just 'ordinary'? We are blessed to live in this time. As Christians, we should seek out God's blessings every single day. Before you can thank God for Her blessings, you have to first see them! Here are some of the small blessings I have noticed as I go about my typical day.
- my comfortable bed to sleep in
- sharing a wonderful and fulfilling community life with my Salesian family in Bolton
- a wonderful family and close friends who offer a strong support network of care and understanding.
- Fun colleagues to share my working day
- clothing to wear for all possible climates
- an abundance of nutritious food to eat each day
- a dishwasher filled with clean dishes
- my laptop which enables me to work remotely and stay in contact with long-distance loved ones
- the beautiful birds, butterflies, and bees who fly around my garden and 'Bosco', our cat who brings a smile to my face
- A leisurely walk through the park
- books, blogs, TV shows, and YouTube videos that entertain me when I need rest
- a stunning sunset with brilliant shades of pink
Nothing on this list is monumental. You might even say that nothing on this list is life-changing–but I disagree. Every single one of these small blessings improves my life on a regular basis.
This season is given to us by the Church not as some sort of 'second division' encounter with God. If we choose to attend Eucharist only for the high days and holidays, then we will miss out on so much: life is made up of the highs and the lows. It is the Salesian way to discover the blessedness of God in the ordinary. Don Bosco discouraged his students from following extreme forms of penance, for example: growing children need food and nutrition that will help them grow. Christianity is a faith of joy, not misery—yet we know those Catholics that seem to revel with in making their lives a pilgrimage of self-mortification, usually drawing others into their festival of pain.
Today is a reminder of the sacredness of the ordinary. The contemplative dimension of Maria Dominica Mazzarello offers an important aspect to Salesian spirituality: it was so simple as she saw God in the ordinary—"Every stitch be an act of Love for God!", she was able to proclaim. Let every stitch be an act of Love in the mundane daily work that we do. It is not the fat salary that you bring home to the family at the end of the day, that will create a happy home, but the spirit of sacrifice that you share as a family that makes the happy home—a sharing in the good and bad times; a sharing in the ordinary everyday experiences that make up our lives and will create a happy home. Like Don Bosco, Mother Mazzarello shared a poor, but happy family life rooted in those chores of cooking, cleaning and sewing that went beyond the ordinary and became redemptive—the power of Creation and Incarnation.
Ordinary time does not mean half measures. God deserves the best. In the Salesian way, we say, "Do ordinary things in an extraordinary way," because we do it for God. St Peter tells us:
Each one of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these varied graces of God, put it at the service of others. If anyone is a speaker, let it be as the words of God, if anyone serves, let it be as in strength granted by God; so that in everything God may receive the glory, through Jesus Christ, since to him alone belong all glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.
In the gospel today, the audience of Jesus could readily identify with the very ordinary task of planting seeds—seeds that can grow into huge bushes that provide rest and shelter. Chinese bamboo seeds are amazing. The seeds lie buried in the soil for ﬁve years before any shoots appear above the ground. However, after continuously watering the ground and putting manure on it, in just six weeks the bamboo plant grows to a height of around ninety feet. Botanists say that, unseen and unknown, the seeds germinate and develop strong roots that eventually break out and produce tall bamboos. It is in this 'ordinary time' that we have the chance to develop and strengthen our own faith.
Many of us would have been unable to endure the rigours of lockdown if we did not have a solid faith foundation. It was that strong reservoir that we were able to draw on; it was that 'ordinary' faith that helped us endure the extraordinary pandemic that hit the world over twelve months ago—roots that go deep have helped us to endure the most traumatic shared international event that we have been forced to face in our lifetimes.
As a community and Church, we must realize that even our small insignificant efforts will go a long way towards building bigger, more vibrant communities. Too often has the Church identified itself with the power in the kingdom of God, rather than being the true servant of the kingdom—as this time of trial has shown us. The tiny seed will grow into that mustard tree and offer hope, peace and welcome to all those who want to find rest in its branches.
Faith is not a quick fix; we are in it for the long haul, to transform those ordinary moments into the extraordinary. Nothing is impossible with God and this should give us inspiration and strength, especially at times when we are discouraged, low or just having a 'wobble'. Just plant the Word of God. It is only a small seed, but with God's providence and power, it will grow huge and bear abundant fruits for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. We are, therefore, reminded to have trust in God and strengthen our commitment and perseverance in spreading the Word of God to all people. While we have a long wait now until Advent, let us use this ordinary time to discovery what God is saying to each of us. Even as a young lady, at Mornese, St Mary Mazzarello could tell her friend Petronilla,
We will open a needle work class for the young girls of the village and we will teach them to sew, but our principle aim will be to teach them to know God, to make them good, and save them from many dangers. From this moment, our every stitch [will] be an act of Love for God.
Whatever 'stitching' you happen to be involved in this week, let your every 'stitch' be an act of Love for God. Life can be difficult yet not impossible, and can be rich and fulfilling. Difficult situations of conflict, stress and worry arise, as do pleasant situations, but there are ways through the challenges. It is essential to believe that there is something positive in everything, that God is in it somewhere, and that we can get through with help. As that seed of God grown within you, I offer this simple reflection from John O'Donohue as a guide:
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.
John O'Donohue, from 'To Bless the Space Between Us'
Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB
Photo: John Anvik on Unsplash