Nowadays we seem to be dissatisfied if we are considered ordinary. We seek to be the first or the best, or at least to belong to the group that is first or best. Yet most of us are really quite ordinary people living ordinary lives. Despite this, there need be nothing ordinary about being ordinary.
With this Sunday we enter the interlude between seasons. Christmas with its excitement and glitter is behind us, and the sober experience of Lent followed by the glory of Easter is in the future. This is Ordinary Time: we reflect on the very ordinary ways that God enters our lives, thus making them extraordinary.
The young boy Samuel was in the keeping of the old man Eli. This was a rather common situation, yet something extraordinary happened. Jesus’ appearance was so unremarkable that the Baptist had to point him out, and then something extraordinary happened. Perhaps what Paul describes is the most startling. Ordinary human beings are members of Christ; their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
In these three incidents, the extraordinary was not apparent. At first, both Samuel and Eli misunderstood the voice; Paul rebuked Christians who had lost sight of their dignity; initially the disciples of John saw nothing unusual in Jesus. These people were only aware of what was obvious.
We are not unlike these biblical people. We do not always look beneath the surface, so we often miss the extraordinary in what is ordinary. We do not hear the voice of God in the voices of others calling us to great things, to sacrifice ourselves for our children or give of ourselves to aging parents. We do not recognize Christ in the thoughtful people with whom we work, the honest people with whom we do business, the understanding people who help us in simple ways, the ordinary people with whom we live.
It takes only a little effort to atune our ears to hear the voice of God, to adjust our sight to recognize Christ in our midst. As members of Christ, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. This same Spirit urges us to reach out to others. What we accomplish may not be as impressive as what was accomplished by Samuel, or the first disciples of Jesus, or Paul. Results are up to God. All we have to be concerned about is that we recognize the call of God in the ordinary events of life and that we respond: “Here I am. You called me.”