17 Jan 2016
“After this [Jesus] wend down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples. And they remained there a few days.” (John 2:12)
In the name …
I’ve been out and about blessing houses as you probably know. This past week I could only make visits up until Wednesday because Sharon and I were away on Thursday and Friday. And up until this past Wednesday, in so many houses, there were these little pink slips of paper with numbers printed on them – six actually. Those little pink slips of paper cost $2 a piece, which barely even gets you something to eat at McDonald’s. But they were being treated with the utmost care because there was so much hope and so many dreams linked with those slips of paper with the six numbers on them.
Then the lottery messed-up. The winning tickets in the one and half billion dollar drawing were sold to other people and not to any of us. The winning tickets weren’t any of those slips of paper in any of the houses that I blessed. I even got swept up in the excitement. For $1.5 billion I was willing to part with $2 and take my chance. Here’s my ticket. I was close, but not close enough to get a share in $1.5 billion. Here’s the newspaper from the day after the drawing with the numbers right on the front page. Let me give the newspaper to one of my acolytes. Let me give the ticket to another. Now read the numbers on the ticket and see if they’re in the newspaper too. One number, that’s usually better than I do already. Two. Three. Four. This is getting pretty exciting! Five numbers! Now what’s the powerball number? Ohhh, off by three. And there goes all my hopes for $1.5 billion. Might as well just tear the ticket up and throw it away. Go ahead tear it up and throw it away. I don’t want to be reminded how close I came.
Well, I gotta tell you. Those are the numbers on my ticket, but my ticket was for last night’s drawing not Wednesday’s. But did you see how exciting it was to think that my little slip of paper, while not worth one and half billion dollars was at least worth $1 million and that I was going to throw it all away just because it wasn’t worth a thousand times more? Take that feeling and try to better understand what the old adage means when we say, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” There is so much in our world and in our lives that is beautiful and inspiring, and if we’re lucky enough, it may also be common. Maybe it’s not the exceptional blessing of winning the lottery, but so often in our ordinary lives we are blessed.
I was at the funeral for Ron Husted yesterday. A young father only in his late 50’s. The Whately Congregational Church was packed. Over 600 people attended his wake the night before. The stories told and overheard were about common blessings. The common blessings of parenthood, of friendship, of nature and of love were shared and shared again. There were no extraordinary blessings that I overheard, but they were blessings nonetheless, and they were blessings that his family and friends would so love to be able to still share except that evil of cancer said no. We need to see and appreciate the blessings that fill our lives right now. We can’t let dreams of the perfect steal away the reality of the just plain good. The world can be a mean place. Unfair is a reality of life down here. That’s the conversation I had with Frank Marchand before yesterday’s funeral. He also is battling cancer as was his friend Ron, but Frank’s has gone into remission. It’s not a matter of fairness that only one friend is better. That’s simply not the way the world works. But because the world is unfair and too often mean, that’s even more reason to cherish the common blessings of everyday.
And because the world is not based on fairness we have to do everything we can to help the good. We can’t only wait for the lottery numbers to be drawn and see if we’re lucky enough to win. We need to be more proactive than lucky. That’s what Mary Ellen shared with us in this morning’s Lesson from First Corinthians. We all have gifts shared with us by God. It is then up to us to make something of those gifts. This is why Paul writes for us this morning: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (12:7) We are not only called by Christ to help each other. We are empowered by Him to help each other. There are so many common blessings just waiting for us to unleash them. If the world could be filled with more do-gooders, then good would have a whole heck of a lot better chance.
And think about today’s Gospel – the story of the wedding feast at Cana. This is John’s first story of miracle, or extraordinary blessing. Common water is changed into a superb wine. It’s true that this is a story of miracle, but it happened in the midst of the ordinary. Jesus is an ordinary guest at an ordinary wedding. No miracle has yet been performed. Nothing spectacular was expected of Him. And yet Jesus filled the ordinary with the extraordinary. But then John finishes with a most unexpected ending: “After this [Jesus] went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples, and they remained there a few days.” It’s the ordinary interrupted by the extraordinary and then brought back again to the ordinary. The extraordinary can surprise us in other words, but we have to realize that we live in the ordinary – and that’s also where Jesus was.
Miracles are amazing, but the common good is what can change the world and us. The common good is what we end up remembering and cherishing. This is why John adds that last sentence to his miracle story: Jesus just went back to Capernaum. The ordinary is where Jesus needs us to see Him too. And the ordinary is where Jesus needs us to be His do-gooders. May that be our prayer on this last Sunday of the Christmas-Epiphany Season when we celebrate the ordinary that the birth of Jesus has shown us to be filled with the extraordinary. In His name we pray. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo