Last week my 84-year-old mother was in the hospital. For days on end doctors tried this and that to stabilize her heart. What struck me was not the desire for some great miracle in which, beyond the capacities of medicine and the doctors, her heart would suddenly be strong again, but instead a desire shared by so many people I talked to in the hospital—to be able to do the most ordinary of things. The patients wanted to cuddle up and get a good night’s sleep in their own beds, take a shower, cook themselves breakfast, go to the grocery store, and walk the dog. “Oh, that would be heaven,” one patient dreamed. Heaven? When faced with not being able to do these supposedly mundane tasks, they suddenly become the greatest desires of our hearts.
So often people look for miracles as proof of their belief (or hope) that there is a God. It seems the more outrageous or beyond the bounds of science, the more we are apt to believe there is something greater than ourselves at work. Unfortunately, a faith that is based on the scientifically unexplainable is all too often lost in challenging times when the miracle is debunked or when the prayed-for miracle doesn’t happen. One of the greatest gifts of practicing Ignatian spirituality is coming to recognize the utterly miraculous gifts in the most ordinary aspects of life.
When we get in the habit of regularly asking, “Where is God in all this?” or looking back over the day and identifying, “Where was I fully present? Where did my heart soar?” we get in the habit of recognizing with gratitude and awe the most seemingly benign things—the smell of the flowers, the laughter shared with a teenager, holding hands with another, and, when we really take the time the taste it, the most delicious pizza ever!
Can you look out your window right now, at this very moment, and identify a miracle? A wonder? A marvel? Can you recognize with every breath the thousands of processes taking place perfectly in sync within your own body? The everyday, completely ordinary act of living is truly a gift.
In these often dreary, cold days of winter, when it seems there is nothing special to motivate our faith, in this Ordinary Time of the Church year and life, could it be that we actually are given the greatest gifts of all?