Edel McClean offers these reflections:
Readings: James 1:1-11, Psalm 118, Mark 8:11-13
The liturgical title for today is Monday of the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time. A quick look at ordinary in the dictionary tells us ‘unexceptional, plain, uninteresting’. It seems a little like what the Pharisees are accusing Jesus of in our gospel today. They seem to think he’s a little too ordinary and they come demanding a sign. Prove to us that you’re exceptional. Give us something remarkable. Do something out of the ordinary. And then we’ll believe you.
Of course, what the Pharisees were getting was anything but ordinary. They were getting a sign. They had Jesus. Standing slap bang in front of them. Not just any old preacher, but, if we follow Mark’s gospel, a man who had just healed a young child, made a deaf man hear, and fed four thousand people. And still the Pharisees say, we want more. They’re unable to see the sign right there in front of them.
The question is, I suppose, what are the signs right there in front of us? We listened to Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem yesterday, of kingfishers and dragonflies. And we can look at moments of beauty and something in us knows they’re a sign. We catch the softness in an older person’s eye as they tell of someone they once loved, and something in us knows it’s a sign. We see a young couple stand in front of a church full of people and, with their hearts pounding, promise themselves to each other for ever. Something in us knows this is a sign. We see a child dancing barefoot, graceful and unselfconscious and we know, it’s a sign. We see a cherry tree, bursting into flower, singing and dancing its colour to the world and, if we take the time to notice, it makes our hearts sing and dance too. And we know that this too, is a sign of something beyond what we can grasp.
Older people, young couples, children, cherry trees. They all belong to ordinary time. But they’re extraordinary too. Because Jesus, it seems, has no desire to be confined to ‘special’ times, but comes to meet us, to grace our lives, right in the middle of the ordinary.
And perhaps we recognise too, those moments in ourselves. The glory of God is a person fully alive, which is another way of saying, the glory of God is a person being who God’s called them to be, which is another way of saying the glory of God is a person being fully themselves. The moment when our hearts sing. The moment when we are so fully ourselves that God shines through us. The moments when, like the old person, or the young couple, like the child or the cherry tree, we are so fully what we’re meant to be, that others look at us and see in us a sign, and know God is right there with them. What the world needs most, perhaps, is our having the courage to be ourselves – to bring our true, unique, God-given selves out from the shadows and allow them to shine. To let our very lives, which belong in this, ordinary time, to be signs of God’s grace, touching the ordinary, and setting it dancing.