Ordinary in an extraordinary way!

Christmas has officially finished! Until next year that is.  With the second Vespers of the Baptism of the Lord, tomorrow we return to Ordinary Time. We get back into the ordinary course of events. Through the period of Ordinary Time following Christmas, we become increasingly aware that this marvel of birth and growth will mature into something challenging.  However we need time to focus on this and we are gifted with the time of Lent which culminates in the great event of the Resurrection, the battle of life over death, light over darkness.

With the way the calendar fell this year, it seemed that the time after New Year's just flew. Jokingly, I said that the shops will already have the Easter eggs in soon. I wasn't too far wrong, in fact, they are already in the shops since New Year's Eve (not impressed  Tesco!). What is it with the commercial world continually projecting us into the future. Have we lost the capacity to live the present moment? Are we afraid to live the present? Are we afraid that the present is too 'ordinary.'
However, ordinary time can be misleading. It seems to suggest that life and faith carry on as usual and they do to an extent. The truth however is quite the contrary when the readings of the season are taken into account. In the Gospel today which accompanies us into Ordinary Time, Jesus issues the invitation: " Follow me".  Follow him a world which is both ordinarily extraordinary and extraordinarily ordinary.

A quote reads: “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” What is the little ‘extra’ which makes the difference in your life? For me, beauty continues to speak a language of its own which does not necessarily need words or vocabulary, precisely because it belongs to the sphere of the simple. My quest for ‘extra’ continues, or translated into biblical terms, the journey towards embracing Jesus’ invitation in John 10:10 ‘I have come that you may life in abundance.'

That said, extraordinary things happen in Ordinary time too. People are born and people die. Wars begin and wars end, and wars go on and on. Tornados and earthquakes happen and end. Miracles come in silently, softly, transforming the lives of unsuspecting people. For me I witnessed it this weekend as we welcomed a new baby into our family. People shed the extraordinary because they have been wearied by life and settle for the ordinary. Ironically, when travel and the media have blown all horizons wide open, our own inner horizons seem to have become narrower and our vision contracted. How can we find again the seeing eye and the feeling touch? The reality of “time and eternity” is one that few people these days choose to contemplate, because we are so distracted. Technology and entertainment have become the things people chase when they are not fulfilling their obligations and taking up their responsibilities.

To follow Jesus, means to take up the Cross. Life is not easy as we all know. Taking up the cross means living at least in part in an alternative reality, one in which the freedom of love, forgiveness and grace  prevails in place of the normal arrangements of domination, retribution and exchange. With the commercial hype of Christmas having passed, it is easy to get dragged into a sense of a mundane life, void of fairy lights, candy canes and gifts under the tree. January can be somewhat of an anti-climatic month. Yes, we are all human; we don't have absolute power over everything; there will be difficult times, there will depressing times; and nothing good comes easy. We may get tossed around by the storms of life like ordinary people except for the fact that we serve God, who is able to speak to our storms and say ‘Peace, be still!’ We think of Celtic spirituality where "Celtic spirituality was a practice in which ordinary people in their daily lives took the tasks that lay to hand but treated them sacramentally, as pointing to a greater reality which lay beyond them." (Esther de Waal).  The Good News that God’s extraordinary life comes to us in seemingly ordinary ways is the ongoing lesson of Ordinary Time.
This said, no-one wants to be ‘ordinary’, we all want to feel special. We want to live exciting lives which give us interesting photos and bizarre statuses to post on Facebook or Twitter. We want people to think our lives are extraordinary.  Easily we forget that every single person on earth is completely unique and not exactly like anyone else. Every single life is special and extraordinary. We don’t have to prove ourselves to God or to anyone for that matter. It can seem that even in church circles, we have to do ‘big’ things. There is so much importance placed on having a big ministry or having that “special calling” to bigger things yet we often fail to recognize that God can do extraordinary things when we’re doing the ordinary.

Holly Gerth writes: “Ordinary is the lie we tell ourselves when we look in the mirror and say the girl looking back is no one special. It’s the false feeling that tries to overwhelm us when we’re standing in the corner at a conference and everyone else seems cooler. It’s the whisper of the enemy of our hearts when we get ready to offer what we’ve tucked away inside for so long. You are not ordinary. You are extraordinary. The God who spoke the stars into being knit together your soul. Chose the color of your eyes. Numbered the hairs on your head. Placed gifts within you like presents for the world to open with joy.”

Yes, God does call some people to go out and do new and extraordinary things but that doesn’t mean that what we do is insignificant. For the vast majority of us, He’s called us to live an ordinary life but He desires that we live it in an extraordinary way.  He wants us to give unconditionally without expecting return, to love in a way which the world doesn’t acknowledge, loving the poor, the weak, those whom the world deems ‘unlovable’. He wants us to be faithful in the little things, making the little sacrifices which no-one might even see. By giving time to someone in need of a kind word or gesture when you feel just like having your personal space. We don’t need a big “calling” to have an impact in this world.  Maybe that is why I love the lives of the saints so much, they teach us that God does miracles in the lives of ordinary people. He changes sinners into saints. All we need to do is live our ordinary lives in an extraordinary way. So don’t be afraid to be ordinary!