28 January 2007

Common and ordinary things

Thinking about today’s Gospel, maybe it’s true that you really can’t go home again. I would have liked to have been the proverbial fly on the wall when Jesus showed up in the synagogue in Nazareth where He had grown up. The sage elders, the worn and treasured scrolls, the atmosphere of agelessness and familiarity combined, and into it all comes a young man remembered by most but understood by none.

He comes making claims. “This scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” He says. And they almost believe it at first. There’s an authority in His voice, they’re riveted by the very thought that the long awaited Kingdom is here. But then they sober up. This is the carpenter’s son, after all. Surely the words of the prophets wouldn’t be fulfilled by a boy who had played with their children and had visited their homes and had helped in the local woodworking shop.

Those who were in the synagogue that day were very human in their thinking. They couldn’t imagine that God would work in common and ordinary circumstances. Surely the Kingdom would come with legions of angels processing down from the sky. There would be a routing of the Romans. Israel would be first among the nations. There would be some show of power. Surely it wouldn’t come with this young rabbi standing in the middle of their small-town synagogue.

But God does work through common and ordinary circumstances. He uses common things like water and oil and bread and wine to bring His grace to us. He calls common and ordinary people to be popes and priests and parents. We need to be careful that we don't spend so much time looking upwards for something spectacular that we miss the work of God being done in our own common and ordinary lives.

We all have a calling from God, issued at our baptism, to be His ordinary instruments in the world, to be tools to work His purposes. We may not be anyone special -- but then, Jesus was only the carpenter’s son.