Making the Ordinary Extraordinary

Monday of Holy Week
Isaiah 42:1-7; John 12:1-11
Yesterday I had the privilege of celebrating the Mass of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord with the people of Our Lady Gate of Heaven Parish here in Chicago, where I served as Pastor in the mid-1990’s. In addition to the traditional outdoor procession with the palms and the reading of the Passion Narrative from the Gospel of Mark, the parish also said good-bye to a long-time member who was moving from her home of 45 years to Atlanta.  Throughout that time she had been one of those people who form the backbone of their communities—in her case, the parish and the neighborhood.  She had been everything from Little League Mom to choir tenor to Principal of OLGH School.
Near the end of the Mass, her fellow parishioners paused to pay tribute to her.  One of those tributes came from the liturgical dance group, which regularly ministers in the parish and this time performed their ministry to a song called Gratefulness.  As the dance progressed, each solo dancer presented her with a gift; and as they did so, she was progressively moved.  By the end of the dance, she was in tears of joy and gratitude herself; and there were a lot of tears and misty eyes around her.  It was a beautiful expression of love, thanks and the strong sense of community that has long been present in the parish. I thought of that dance as I reflected on Mary’s simple but devoted and even extravagant service to Jesus in today’s gospel reading.  She took what was then a common gesture of hospitality—washing the feet of a guest—and made it special not only through her use of aromatic nard but even more so by the act of drying his feet with her hair.  She made the ordinary extraordinary through her very personal expression of humility and devotion. Speaking through Isaiah the prophet, God describes a servant who seems very “low key” yet is called upon to do something special—to be liberating and healing “light to the nations.”  Jesus did not wave the banner of revolution, yet he was revolutionary in many ways.  His passion was the mission that his Father had given him.  During this week when we recall the culmination of that mission may we renew our own passion for the Gospel and be willing to make even the ordinary extraordinary—by what we do and, even more, by the spirit in which we do it. JC