Actually, life is anything but ordinary. We think of it as such because we confuse ordinary with routine. Routine does not have to be ordinary if we allow ourselves the eyes to see. The very eyes that we allowed to be opened at the manger do not need to close just because we have returned to routine in our lives. The challenge of our humanness, no more or less than the challenge of the humanness of Jesus, is to continue to find God breaking through in our daily life. Just as Jesus was a worker of wood, a laborer, we also have the routine involved with laboring. Just as Mary and Joseph had to routinely provide for their Son, we also have to attend to obligations and repetitive daily functions. Surely their routine was far from ordinary. No less for us if we open our eyes to it.
From the moment of our baptism we, too, are on the way to the cross. That is, there is not a one of us who will live a life without suffering. This is the way it is for all people. None of us really chooses the cross we will bear, but the path we walk while carrying it is our particular path to holiness. It is not the cross that will define us, but rather, it is our response to it. Carrying our cross does not mean we will not have happiness, but it means that we will be more attuned to those around us. Just as Jesus had great joy in His ministry, so, too, can we. But all lives contain both joy and suffering. There is much to learn from both.
Our cross, and hence, our road to holiness, can come in any form. It can come in obscurity or it can come in the public eye. It can come in the form of difficult health issues, painful relationships, abuse or neglect we have experienced, or from feeling the burden of whatever it is we do. Our suffering can also come from seeing the pain in the world: it can be the suffering of witnessing the violence which surrounds us (which seems to get worse all the time), it can be from witnessing the injustice that is directed toward those who are marginalized or misunderstood; it can be from being one of those who are marginalized or misunderstood. Whatever it is, it is our response to the call we have received, or the cross which is ours to bear, which will determine our happiness and our holiness. And the ability to respond to our call is found in what we have seen and heard at the manger during the Christmas season, come to fruition through baptism.
Let us realize on this feast of the Baptism of the Lord that we are called to the joy of being united with Him and with the entire Body of Christ and therefore we are never alone in carrying our personal cross. Let us realize that we are on the road to holiness if we embrace the task He puts before us in what seems like a routine life. We will find that no matter what our personal road to holiness seems to be, all roads intersect in Him. So let us leave Bethlehem with Jesus; as the Christmas season ends let us enter the river and then go forth with Jesus finding renewed spiritual energy in Him as we embrace our lives of love and service anew.
May we have the courage to leave the safety of the manger for the unknown of our journey! May we accept the empowerment of Baptism along with the mission entrusted to us in our day-to-day lives! May we recognize the suffering of others and be moved to offer love! May we allow our hearts to be broken open so that we may be moved to compassionate love more deeply! May we have the grace to carry our own cross with dignity and integrity! And may we recognize Jesus ‘in His most distressing disguise’ in the poor and marginalized, so that we may be moved to action! Let us continue to meet on the road and in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
The first painting is The Baptism of the Lord and is part of a fresco by Giotto. It is found in the Cappella Scrovegni (Scrovegni Chapel) in Ravenna, Italy.
The second image is one of my photos. It is the Missouri River, taken in South Dakota.
Next is a photograph of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, followed by the icon Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati by Fr. William Hart McNichols. The icon can be found at http://www.standreirublevicons.com/gallery-views/holy-men-icons/product/97-blessed-pier-giorgio-frassati
The final picture is another of my photographs which was taken in Lost Maples State Park in TX.