Dear Parish Faithful,
We all know and experience the fact that our lives are basically filled with “ordinary” events. These are the routines and rhythms of daily life. As such, the ordinary can become over time tedious, mundane, prosaic, even boring. Yet, such is life and at our best we try and accomplish the ordinary with a good and cheerful spirit. Yet, a daily diet of the ordinary has us seeking out anything of an “extraordinary” nature to break through those mundane patterns of existence. This would include anything novel, exciting, enticing; in short, anything that takes us beyond the ordinary. I am not sure that what passes for “entertainment” can be described as truly “extraordinary,” but that is part of the lure of entertainment – at least something reaching beyond the mundane events of ordinary daily living. This came to mind as I am continually campaigning to recruit further members for our parish Summer Bible Study. (Something is working, because we were “packed in” last Wednesday). I cannot claim that a parish Bible Study is an “extraordinary” event, for the simple fact that many – if not most – parishes have Bible Studies, thus making them a somewhat “ordinary” part of parish life. (Perhaps it is the commonplace nature of a parish Bible Study that makes them less than attractive for some parishioners – nothing extraordinary there and thus not that attractive. Someone just might say: I can find much more exciting or worthwhile things to do with my [precious] spare time).
I will concede that that is one possible way of looking at it. But other perspectives are also legitimate. Take our own Summer Bible Study currently underway for (only) two sessions thus far. We are reading, studying and discussing the Gospel According to St. John – truly an “extraordinary” book without parallel. This Gospel is unique, intellectually and spiritually stimulating, challenging, life-transforming and revelatory of God’s design for the world that He created and loves! It has limitless breadth and unfathomable depth. It has been written so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that we may have life in His name. So, while the Bible Study may be “ordinary” enough as a commonplace event; the content and focus of the Bible Study – The Gospel According to St. John - is one of the most “extraordinary” books ever to have been conceived and written. There is nothing like it since the “foundation of the world” and there never will be. More specifically, this coming Wednesday we will read and discuss what has to be one of the most “extraordinary” dialogues/discourses in human history, the one between Jesus and Nicodemus the Pharisee about being “born again/from above.” (A quick question: Are you able to explain the meaning of this discourse to your next door neighbor if asked to?). We have unimpeded access to this dialogue and this extraordinary book. Granted, this also means that anyone can read St. John’s Gospel alone, in the comfort of one’s home. I will assume that that is what some parishioners who cannot make the Bible Study are doing. But as I have argued many times before, a group/communal settings has its own rewards that make it worthy of our consideration.
No pressure intended – seriously. But a pastoral reminder that sometimes the most “extraordinary” things are hidden in plain view, right before our eyes, as someone once put it. And we may look right past it in search for something that is not really there . My “target audience” are simply those of you who are not held back by domestic complications – also known as child-rearing – or other legitimate reasons, and who may need some extra stimulation to point you in the direction of the church on Wednesday evenings. Whether this appeal is effective or not, I am absolutely convinced of one thing – there is nothing more “extraordinary” that you can find to do with your time than study the Gospel According to St. John.
Vespers will first be served at 7:00 p.m. The Bible Study begins at 7:45 p.m. We will read and study JN. 3 this week.