Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
I found myself laughing in the middle of today's gospel story (Matthew 13:54-48) at the people who "were astonished" at Jesus. They've known him forever, watched him grow up, maybe know some embarrassing childhood stories, saw him working with Joseph in the workshop - and now here he is, doing "mighty deeds." They're incredulous, to say the least. Perhaps more than one of them is thinking, "So now this guy is coming in and pretending to be all high and mighty? Whatever."
It's such a real, human response to an unexpected turn of events. It would be a bit like if one of my students - maybe the one who sat in the back row and never did the reading and mostly failed all his writing assignments - should tomorrow be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Something wouldn't compute for me, and more likely than not, I'd be wondering how on earth that student did it - rather than wondering, "Did I have it all wrong?"
At the end of the gospel, when Jesus proclaims that a "prophet is not without honor except in his native place", he's speaking to the fact that when someone is familiar to you, it is difficult, perhaps even almost impossible to change your mind about that person.
It is difficult, in other words, to see the extraordinary in a person who seems merely ordinary.
But God relishes showing us extraordinary events in the midst of ordinary ones. It is why God became human in the first place. And I think it is also why, in today's first reading (Leviticus 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34B-37), God gives a detailed account of all the feasts that the Israelites should observe. Feasts are extraordinary days that punctuate our ordinary living. The cycle of feasting in the midst of ordinary days - which Christians adopted from their Jewish roots - is one that trains us to see the extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary. God wants us always to be prepared to see the unexpected, for those are key moments to see God. So a feast of a saint, in the middle of the summer, reminds us to expect the extraordinary.
Today, let us pray for the grace to see the unexpected in what seems merely ordinary.
- Jana M. Bennett