SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ LEV 23:1-37MT 13: 54-58]

In our lives, we must have come across many great, famous and charismatic people.  And we have been impressed by them.  Yet, who are those people that are really great? Are they those who are highly gifted; making themselves so awesome to approach; making us feel small when we speak to them? Or are they those who are highly gifted and yet appear and relate to us as if they are normal and ordinary people?  Indeed, the truly, truly great are those who are great per se but make themselves so ordinary; are so humble in their ways, making us feel that we are somebody before them.  I was told by the helpers of MC that when Mother Teresa came, she lived among the sisters and lived as one of them without any special treatment accorded to her.  That is indeed someone really great.

Yes, this is the theme of today’s gospel.  God comes to us in ordinary ways, in very human ways.  Unfortunately, like the people in Jesus’ hometown, many of us cannot accept that God can manifest Himself to us that way.  The people could not accept Jesus because they knew Him too well.  He was so ordinary, He was one of them.  They knew His family and relatives too.  How could one with such a village background be the Messiah who was promised in the Old Testament? And so they rejected Him, as they would again at the crucifixion.  They wanted God to appear in more fantastic and spectacular ways.  Yes, Jesus was a scandal to them.

But that is not the way of God.  In fact, God has always revealed and related to us in ordinary and human ways.  The first reading from the book of Leviticus prescribes the three great festivals of Israel, viz, the Passover, Weeks or Pentecost; and Tabernacles.  The lives of the Jews were structured around these three great feasts.  The origin of the Passover was a pastoral festival which celebrates the spring firstlings.  The Feast of Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks, is simply the harvest festival, the feast of the first-fruits of the grain harvest.  The Feast of Tabernacles celebrated at autumn is actually a harvest festival for the fruits of the threshing floor and wine press.  Like Passover and Pentecost, Tabernacles combines an agricultural motif and a historical motif which developed later on.

What, then, are the implications for us with regard to our own lives and in our relationship with others?

Firstly, with regard to ourselveshow should we live our lives?  We should live ordinary lives in an extraordinary way.  That is to say, we should just be.  There is no need to make a show of what we do or who we are.  When we are natural with ourselves, we will radiate the love of God and the presence of God.  But when we attempt to exaggerate the uniqueness in us, we become artificial and phony.  Being ordinary does not mean to be mediocre.  Mediocre people are those who pretend to be what they are not and, worst of all, fall short of what they pretend to be.  Precisely, Jesus was so ordinary that people who lacked the faith-vision or God-vision could not see His divine presence.

Secondly, with regard to others, we should not be too impressed by what they do and who they are.  Quite often, we are easily impressed by how the person speaks and dresses, and the credentials and offices he holds.  And we tend to treat those who are more impressive with greater respect and honour.  But let us not be deceived.  Not all of them are truly great people.  They might be impressive, but behind the mask of their externals, they could be hiding deep insecurities and inferiority.  Rather, the great man is one who is truly great but thinks that he is ordinary.  He does not want to be treated differently and prefers to be just ordinary.  They are the people who are wise and great and who live happy lives.  These are people whom we should really look up to so that we too can live full lives.

But to think and live that way takes faith. Jesus told us in the gospel to see how God is working in our ordinary lives.  Without faith, we cannot see the prophetic signs of God working through the lives of others and in our ordinary events.  And like the people of Jesus’ time, we will deprive ourselves of experiencing the miracles of God in our lives.  So the question is:  do we see the world with the vision of God and Jesus, or through the eyes of the world?