Wellstreams—Living Waters for the Journey in Faith By Sister Lauretta Leipzig
The majority of people in this world are just ordinary people! I think that’s a fair statement to make. It’s always been that way! Look at the Mediterranean people of Jesus’ time. There was something very ordinary in the work of a carpenter, a shepherd tending sheep, a baker or toll collector. There was something very ordinary about a fisherman working in his boat or washing nets. Their daily routine jobs were probably performed with a degree of drudgery, yet they were done knowing it was essential to obtain a simple daily wage that would help feed the family for another day. So the story of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry started with Jesus choosing his first disciples from the ordinary working people. Also, we cannot forget that Jesus lived an ordinary life for the greater part of his thirty years.
But think further about “ordinary.” There’s something quite sacred about the ordinary for us – going off to the office or place of work, taking care of a child at home, enjoying family time together and participating in all those events and occurrences that make up our daily lives. But then, in the middle of all this “ordinary,” God often surprises us and calls us into his service in a new way. We might think we need long times of prayer or we need to do big things for God, but we forget that God can also be found in the small things – in the most ordinary things of life. Donald Neary, S.J. tells us there’s an old Irish spirituality which had a blessing for everything that was considered ordinary in people’s lives: cleaning a room, milking the cows, preparing a meal, gardening or working in the fields. How ordinary can these be? They found God as much in their undertakings and surroundings as in the church and other designated “holy” places.
There’s a story told about a man who was being rewarded by the King for something wonderful he had done. He was told by the King to mark off as much of the Kingdom as he wanted and it would be his. The man took his staff and traced a line in the dirt just around himself. When finished the King asked, “Is that all you want? Just what is in the circle?” The man answered, “No, I want everything outside the circle!”
Outside the circle! What if we looked beyond our small selves to see where God wants us to be and serve him – outside our circle? Have you ever sensed God leading you to do something, but hesitated because it would interrupt your everyday life, change your schedule or cause you to do something you don’t want to do? Most of us have some degree of selective hearing or times when our vision becomes clouded. At these times we fail to take that one step of faith to follow God’s lead. How difficult it is to sometimes move outside our comfortable circle!
Yet, we must believe that God is in the business of using ordinary people to do great things. Numerous characters in Scripture point us to our theme today. Falsely, we can think that the first disciples were spiritual giants. But consider Matthew as an example. We don’t know much about him, but we do know that, because of his work for the Romans, he was one of the most questionable persons of the town. However, when Jesus called him to follow, Matthew left everything and ventured forth with nothing more than Jesus’ promise to make him a disciple. Of all the possible people Jesus could have chosen, we wonder why he chose a so-called “thief” like Matthew.
We can question all we like, but this seems the way God acts! That’s what God does! A shepherd becomes a king, a farmer becomes a prophet, a simple, humble girl becomes the mother of Jesus. These are the people – ordinary people — God calls to be his disciples. God was busy blessing the world through them and continues to be busy in our lives as well. In God’s hands we, as ordinary people, can do extraordinary things for the love of Christ because he is the one who calls us and guides us in everything we say and do.
We might take to heart Pope Francis’ example and words: “As ordinary disciples, God does not expect us to be perfect in carrying his word and work to others.” Francis tells us: “ Just do it as best you can and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.” We probably are all familiar with Mother Teresa’s words. She was well-known for the sayings she passed on to those who would hear her advice. She believed firmly that “not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with love… Holiness doesn’t mean doing extraordinary things, but doing ordinary things with love and faith.” And again she wrote: “I cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Let us take the advice of these great leaders and strive to do, with extraordinary love and generosity, the ordinary things to which we are being called and make a difference in our world.
September 9, 2018
Sister Lauretta Leipzig