Encountering God in the Ordinary Events of Life

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We sometimes say that an event or an experience was a “wasted opportunity”. What we usually mean is that something could have been gained from it which we neglected to pursue. It was a missed opportunity which could have enriched us in some way. I believe in our journey to God there are many wasted opportunities. They are caused because we are not aware of the potential they have to advance on our journey to a deeper intimacy with Jesus that brings us to our share in the life of God.

We are often not sufficiently aware that our encounter with God is primarily in the ordinary events of life, not in the more formal religious experiences in which we might engage. Our primary focus in life should be the fulfilment of those responsibilities to which we have committed ourselves in responding to the call of God. It is there that we can encounter Jesus in a unique and continuing way. These activities are wasted when we just do them in an habitual, unthinking way, without consciously drawing them into our relationship with Jesus. What distinguishes these activities for a disciple of Jesus is that we see and live them as an expression of our love for Jesus. When we commit ourselves to a relationship with Jesus, we do include all the actions of our life. However, we grow more faithfully when we consciously bring this commitment to the individual events of our life.

These events may seem to be insignificant in comparison to the great things that we see other people doing. However, it needs to be said that the importance for our spiritual journey is not determined by what is done, but by the love with which it is done. Little things done with great love easily surpass great things done with less love. We should not be looking for and waiting on great things to do in the future. Look to the present and do the ordinary things with extraordinary love. This makes these events extraordinary and draws us into deeper union with Jesus. Such a practice brings us into line with Paul’s exhortation: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.”

Religious and priests often have a way of life which is seen to be more conducive to spiritual maturity. However, every life is capable of leading the disciple of Jesus to spiritual maturity. This is a truth that we have sometimes forgotten in our tradition. In the fourth century there was a movement that drew many thousands of Christians to the deserts of Egypt to live the Christian life as simply as they could. This was a great upsurge of spirituality to which the Church in times of renewal has often turned back.

A story that emanates from that time brings out the point that I am making. One of the monks asked God : who is the humblest, and therefore the holiest, person in the whole of Egypt. God told him that the next person to knock at his door would be the humblest person in the whole of Egypt. When the knock came, the monk raced to the door to find out which of the monks was the humblest, only to find that it was the man from the village delivering the bread. It wasn’t a monk at all! The monks had to be reminded that true holiness was open to all. Over the centuries this teaching became clouded, and the laity were often seen as “ugly ducklings” because they were judged by the standards of the lives of religious and clergy. It was finally the Second Vatican Council that reminded us forcefully that holiness is open to all. When judged by the standards of their way of life, the laity were seen to be “beautiful swans”.

Life is filled with the presence of God. We are able to find God in each and every event and experience and respond to the divine approach in those moments. Let us not waste a single moment; let our love for Jesus transform each moment and enrich not only ourselves, but all those who share those moments with us.

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