A few years ago there was a popular show on TV that described itself as being a show about nothing. Many of us were fans because of the hilarity of the situations in which the main characters found themselves. Most of the situations were exaggerations of ordinary events, but the show really had no plot line from week to week. In many ways it was a show about nothing, just as it was advertised. So I guess you could say that those of us who tuned in week after week enjoyed watching something that was really about nothing! Sounds like a huge waste of time. Maybe not.
Regardless of one's feelings about that particular show or any other show on TV, the show was not really about nothing. It highlighted ordinary, day-to-day situations (albeit exaggerated) that we experience in our lives in such a way as to say nothing is really ordinary. I doubt the writers were trying to say anything really very profound, (they were trying to get us to laugh, maybe at ourselves), but in a way there is something profound about the ordinary. The ordinary is a blank canvas waiting for someone to create something beautiful on it. It is only ordinary as long as we let it be so.
It is only a matter of perception as to what ordinary really is. What may seem ordinary and sort of "blah" or "hum-drum" is actually teeming with life! I may be in my daily routine thinking I am simply at the grind, so to speak, when in fact every interaction has the potential to change someone's life even for a moment. An example of this was when I was in a card store recently and I was remarking about the weather to the clerk. The man behind me found what I said so amusing that afterward he thanked me for making his day brighter! I had no idea that anyone was even listening to me, except the clerk, and yet it changed a bit of the other man's day. And in turn, it made me smile a bit more in recalling his pleasure at my silly statement. While this may not seem very profound, one can see God in it, if one looks a bit more deeply. God enjoys us and our funniness sometimes, too. (Oh, I am sure I amuse God a fair amount!) But in brightening someone's day, even if unintentionally, I think God is present.
If I choose to perceive my participation in this day as unimportant, affecting no one, without purpose or affect, it may in fact be so. That is, to me it will be so. We have far more impact on people than we often realize, both for the good and for the ill. If we choose to see only a negative perspective, and choose to believe that our existence is unimportant and droll, then we will have missed scores of opportunities to realize that even small things make a difference in this world. On top of that, we will have missed some occasions of beauty which would go by unnoticed. If we choose to see each day as the potential for using our gifts, and we choose to see each day as full of the presence of God, then in fact we will come away with something that changes everything: deep gratitude and joy.
Seeing the day as full of possibilities and seeing the day as full of the presence of God is the attitude of a disciple. Disciples see their lives as full of possibility because they know they are on a mission. Even on the days when our schedules do not look overly exciting, each little act of seemingly unimportant routine is full of the presence of God and the possibility that what we are doing is affecting the outside world. The problem is that often we think that unless we are doing the equivalent of curing cancer or climbing Mt. Everest, we are not doing anything important. Most of us will never do those things, but we do have a huge impact on the lives of those who love us, and upon those whom we meet in the most ordinary circumstances. Often we do not pay attention to the people around us because we are either momentarily self-absorbed or absorbed in the task at hand.
Maybe the challenge here for us is to try to learn to be a bit more attentive every day to those seemingly invisible people around us. In other words, we need to begin to see those other people around us, not as background filler, but as people whom we may affect just by being who we are, where we are. Maybe the challenge is to live truly as disciples; a disciple sees all things through the lens of the spiritual, through the lens of the Scriptures, which is ultimately the lens of seeing as God sees. God is so immensely loving that seeing with His eyes would filter out a lot of judgment, a lot of ugliness, and a lot of hatred, replacing it with acceptance, beauty and a broader love than we are ordinarily capable of having. A disciple is one who follows the Master. Our master is Jesus, the Lord of All. To see life as a gift is what He teaches us. But because it is a gift, every moment is precious and full of possibility for us to bring others to see His beauty and to know His love. It is a matter of perception. Nothing in life is really about nothing no matter how insignificant it may feel to us or no matter how insignificant we may feel.
If we are feeling a little bored with our day-to-day reality maybe it is time to have an attitude tune-up. We just celebrated the Baptism of the Lord this past weekend. His baptism was not for the forgiveness of sins because He did not need forgiveness, being the perfect Son of God. Rather, Jesus was baptized to set an example for us; it marked the beginning of a new life for Him. Jesus came out of the obscurity of about 30 years of a hidden life. It was after His baptism that He began His ministry. If we are to be disciples, we need to realize that our baptism served this purpose also. Celebrating the Baptism of the Lord should make us think of our own baptism. If we are true disciples our baptism should be about our own ministry helping in the work of building the Kingdom of God.
May this beginning of Ordinary Time be an immersion into the gift of discipleship, which we learn at the feet of the Master, Jesus! May Jesus help us to transform our perception of the time we have each day into a fruitful experience, realizing that we have the responsibility to share the Kingdom with others. May we see each moment of each day as the precious gift it is! And may we take the wonderful canvas of day-to-day life and let the Lord guide us in creating the beautiful work that is our life! May we understand that with eyes to see, nothing is ordinary at all! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of the Lord where He teaches us how to paint our beautiful canvas of daily life! Peace!
-The top photo is one I took while climbing Mt. Mucrone in northern Italy a few years ago. I chose it because the cloud is obscuring the beautiful scenery below, an example of how easily our perception can be obscured by something as common as a little mist!
-The second image is an icon of Bl. Fra Angelico, patron saint of artists. Maybe he can be our patron as we try to paint a beautiful portrait of God's love with this day. This icon was written by Rev. William Hart McNichols and can be found along with a small explanation of the life and work of Fra Angelico at http://www.standreirublevicons.com/gallery.php?action=viewPicture&id=49
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Heart Speaks to Heart