The Extraordinary in the Ordinary

I certainly do not think this is unique to me, but Advent has always been my favorite liturgical season. The hymns, the wreath with candles, the timeless call to prepare the way for the coming of Christ, and the anticipation of rejoicing at Christmas gets me excited every year.  However, I always need to make sure that I thank God for the beauty of Ordinary Time, which helps us to grow in our lives of faith while recognizing the extraordinary gifts of God hidden in the seemingly ordinary aspects of our routines and structures.  

I teach math at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, and teaching math provides so many seemingly ordinary practices and routines to my life and ministry. Daily problem sets, grading homework, modeling new problem-solving strategies, and working out examples with students is the regular routine in my classroom. Students can roughly expect the same thing every day, and I do not think this is a bad thing. The goal is for my students to know our routine and patterns of learning well enough that they can focus their mental energy on learning new concepts and practicing skills rather than questioning what they are supposed to be doing or where they are supposed to be. It is in the routine and seemingly ordinary aspects of our class that I can teach new concepts that help students to see just how extraordinary the mathematical world that God created truly is. I want my students to be able to recognize that mathematics is the language through which God elected to create our world, and the more we can understand the mathematics behind the created world, the more we can recognize the Creator who loved us into being. 

Just as the ordinary structure provides extraordinary opportunities in mathematics, it is in the seemingly ordinary aspects of our lives that we are called to show extraordinary love for God and neighbor. Daily routines of prayer, cooking, and cleaning for family or community members — or simply listening with a patient ear to a coworker — are all opportunities for us to show our dedication and love for those around us. It is the small moments of life that show the quality of our love on a daily basis. These moments are full of our daily crosses and daily glimpses of resurrection when we link them to the redemptive work of Jesus. 

St. Francis of Assisi certainly had his fair share of extraordinary moments and miracles in his life, including levitation during prayer, communicating with animals, and conformity with Christ Crucified as he received the stigmata. However, one of his lesser-known stories has always stood out to me, as it shows the ordinarily extraordinary nature of his holiness. After a rain storm, St. Francis would pick up worms that had crawled onto the road. He would then put them back in the grass so they would not burn in the sun. From the outside perspective, this much have seemed crazy as he wasted so much time saving worms. Yet, this ordinary act showed his extraordinary commitment to creation and his respect for our God who created us all. Small moments of the ordinary give insight into the nature and quality of our love. 

As we complete our season of Ordinary Time and begin again with Advent, I suggest that we take some time to recognize the ordinarily extraordinary moments of this past year. How have we shown our love and dedication to those around us in acts of self service? How do our daily structures and daily routines show our love for God, and how has God revealed Himself to us in the ordinary aspects of our life? May God continue to bless us in these ordinarily extraordinary ways. 

Published on December 1, 2023

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