Elevating the Ordinary
They were simple words and ordinary gestures. Yet, these four moments in time were transformative. It reminds me that God can take the smallest offering we might make and turn it into something miraculous.
Every action we take can either glorify God—or do the opposite. I think that’s what St. Paul meant about, “Take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5)
But back to those simple moments of transformation!
The first example: I was a strayed Catholic for over 25 years. But one day my husband and I entered a Catholic Church thinking we might send our young children to Sunday School there. The choir began singing, “Come back to me with all your heart…” The words are from the prophet Hosea. It wasn’t sung by a magnificent chorus…just simple words and a simple melody. But in that moment God came and tapped on the door of my heart. He used that choir to reduce me to tears. I imagine they sang it as if it were just any old song. Certainly they knew nothing of the small miracle happening in the pews. But their efforts led to a transformation.
Example 2: Several years later, the children and I went to a communal penance service. Peter, 11, was tired and sore after an intense football practice. He didn’t want to be at church. But, as the priests processed out to go to their places after being introduced, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal made himself known to us. Fr. Robert, with small, half closed eyes, and a round smiling face, tapped Peter on the head. He chuckled and pointed to the back of church. “That’s you on the painting back there,” he said.
Peter had been my model for a banner about Jesus blessing the children. The friendly friar recognized him in the artwork, in spite of his eye impairment. When Peter went to see him for confession, the friar called Peter a “leprechaun”. He challenged Peter to spend ten minutes a day reading the Bible! It was a big request and not meant as penance but spiritual direction. Peter rose to the challenge and has been reading the Bible almost every day for four years now! It was Fr. Robert’s inner vision that guided this transformation.
Example 3: Jurgen and I could hear the children playing a game in the living room. “It’s done this way.” “No. That’s not in the rule book.” Jurgen hurried into the room to put an end to the bickering. He ordered the children to put away the game. When Brigit spoke up in disbelief, Jurgen sent her to her room.
I know. You’re thinking this doesn’t sound like a moment of Godly transformation. But that’s only the beginning of the story...
Jurgen realized he had overreacted. So, he explained to the children the importance of acting kindly toward each other and then allowed them to take the game out again. A few minutes later they were playing and laughter filled the air.
Jurgen walked out to the living room with his hands on his hips. His eyebrows were lowered. He looked furious. “There is way too much laughter out here. If you’re going to keep laughing, we’ll have to take this game away.”
When the children realized he was joking they laughed even harder. It was a moment of joy. I was the one who was transformed. I witnessed a different way of helping the children learn and grow.
Example 4: During the weekdays at church, there are few people in attendance. But our new priest still delivers short sermons. On this day, my daughter and her friend were altar servers. Father said he was going to address the sermon to them. He turned from the ambo and looked directly at them. His sermon was about performing at 100%. “Don’t just do your work to get the grade, forgetting the content of your studies. Dedicate every project to God and give it your all. Then we are glorifying God. We are thanking Him by our actions. That is what it really means to earn 100%.”
Brigit absorbed everything the priest said. She came home and created a poster about it. She brought it to church the next day after putting it in an envelope marked, “Feedback on your sermon.” Father had touched deeply.
But the rest of Father’s sermon is really what this essay is all about…
The reading of the day was on the miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes. Jesus could have fed the people with a simple blink of His eyes. Instead, He asked the disciples, “What do you have?” They brought Him everything they had access to. It wasn’t much and they surely couldn’t see how it would be useful.
Still, the followers of Jesus did their part. And God made a miracle happen. Such transforming miracles happen every day. The credit goes to God. But the simple actions of trust and goodness are our responsibility.
It’s time we paid closer attention to the command, “Take every thought captive for Christ.”