A couple Sundays ago at church, the priest was giving a captivating homily. In it he had mentioned his ill mother, who had just turned 99 years old. In the pew in front of me were two women. One leaned to the other and whispered, “Wow!” At first I thought, No big deal. I’ve known of people who’ve lived well into their nineties. People in my fiancée’s family tend to live long, and my own grandmother is 88 and physically healthy. But what that lady’s “Wow!” was about was an awe-filled recognition of God’s miracles.
I’ll admit that I tend to be a bit cavalier about things like very old ages, 50th wedding anniversaries, or new babies. It’s not that I don’t care, but I just don’t get caught up in the ooh-ing and ahh-ing. These events are just part of life, right? Babies are born every day. People live long enough to celebrate 50th anniversaries and 90-something birthdays. What I’ve come to realize is that those moments I’ve so easily dismissed are the miracles of everyday life!
Yes, birth and aging are as ordinary as can be, but God shows up in the ordinary. We ought to celebrate the awesome ability for a human being to have lived and experienced a century! We ought to praise God for the miracle of forming an amazingly and extremely complex conscious organism in just nine month’s time! Despite the fact that these things happen all the time they still carry a miraculous character that captivates us—or should.
I think of St. Ignatius on the river Cardoner, where he experienced a profound moment of God. His autobiography says that, “the eyes of his understanding were opened.” At that moment, Ignatius had, I believe, an insight of God’s ordinary miracles. I think he was captivated by the fact that all he had learned and experienced before—the ordinary stuff—now had miraculous meaning, divine meaning. Joseph Tylenda, SJ, a commentator on Ignatius’s autobiography, says, “[Ignatius] now perceived everything in its proper relationship to God.” Everything was no longer ordinary and plain, but it was awe-filled and miraculous, because it came from God. The “Wow!” from the woman at church, then, was a brief audible appreciation of ordinary miracles.