Accomplish the Extraordinary in the Ordinary
In today's Gospel reading, we hear the famous parable of the Good Samaritan. The innkeeper's role in this story is often overlooked, but he exemplifies the Christian life that we are called to live in this world - making the world holy through the regular, ordinary life of daily work and living.
As Christians, we are called to make the world holy through our everyday actions, while at the same time, avoiding worldliness.
In his book, "Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way", St. Pope John Paul II outlines three ways we can imbue the world with holiness: 1) By animating society with the Christian spirit through our professional work and family life, 2) Transforming our daily life through prayer, and 3) Putting Jesus Christ as the center of our activity.
Most of what's happening in the world today is beyond our control. But our day to day actions and how we choose to live each day is very much in our control. Therefore, we can make a difference through those small actions in our daily life. That is how we transform society and the world - one action at a time, one person at a time.
Full Audio Transcript
00:01 Oh, we know this parable. It's one of our blessed Lord's most famous, right up there with the parable parable of the prodigal son, both of which we find in the gospel of Saint Luke. We know the unfortunate man who gets beat up, robbed, and left for dead. The priest and the Levite, who are set aside by God to do His work pass by on the other side, the Samaritan who is despised and looked down upon by the people of Israel is the hero of the story.
00:32 But there was another character in the parable who often overlooked, not the victim priest or Levite, and not even the Samaritan. The innkeeper. I'd like to draw attention to this overlooked fifth character of our Lord's parable. The innkeeper is crucial to the man's recovery. And I came across this insight, uh, back in the early two thousands when a Pope Saint John Paul the second came out with a book. It was called "Rise, Let us be on our way." And here's what Saint John Paul the second says about this parable. He says "after the first care for the continuing assistance of the wounded man, the Good Samaritan turns to the innkeeper. How could he have done it without him? In fact, the innkeeper or remaining in the shadows carries out the greatest part of the work."
01:32 Now, Saint John Paul the second uses this parable as a jump off point to reflect upon the theme that was very near and dear to his heart and to his pontificate. That is the lay charism - is lay people living out their vocation in the midst of the world. And he knew what part of the reason it was so near and dear to him because it was the laity and them living their vocation in the world that helped bring down the evil of communism in Poland and in the rest of the Soviet block. And so Saint John Paul, the Second comment's further, he says, "lay people can live out their own vocation in the world and reach sanctity by animating society with the Christian spirit through the fulfillment of their professional duties and by the testimony of an exemplary family life. I have in mind not only this, those who o occupied the first places in society, but also those who know how to transform their daily life by prayer, putting Christ at the center of their activity."
02:39 So what is this saint saying? He says, lay people achieve sanctity in the indicates three ways by animating society with the Christian spirit through their professional work and family life, transforming their daily life through prayer. And third, putting Jesus Christ as the center of their activity. The innkeeper exemplifies this in the parable, exemplifies the lay charism of making the world holy through the regular, ordinary life of daily work and living. In other words, recognizing the opportunities in daily life to act as a Christian.
03:29 Cardinal Albino Luciani, the man who was elected John Paul the First. You may remember him, he had a pontificate of 33 days. He once wrote this. He said, "there's a terrible moral and religious void in our society. God who should fill our life, has on the contrary, become a very distant star to which people only look at certain moments. People believe that they are religious because they go to church, but outside of church they want to lead the same life as everyone else."
04:07 They want to lead the same life as everyone else. Here in lies difficulty, most of us, I would wager all of us here would answer yes. Yes, we've chosen for Jesus Christ. We believe him to be the holy one of God, the Messiah, our Savior, God incarnate, and yet we find ourselves still desiring to go on and lead the same life as everyone else, not to allow that choice to effect our day to day living.
04:42 We can lack coherence and integrity as children of our heavenly Father and citizens of his kingdom. We can find ourselves compartmentalized. It can be a Christian, a church, a greedy capitalist at work, a tyrant at home, a self-indulgent hedonist with our friends. Pope Francis calls this mondanità in Italian mondanità - worldliness - that is calling ourselves Christian, but living according to the spirit of the world. What Jesus is teaching us through the innkeeper is that God is not some distant star out of touch with our day to day life, the decision to be followers of Jesus Christ, which we have made, must inform and shape the actions of our daily life. As our blessed Lord taught us, we are to be in the world but not of the world and even more strongly right when he told his disciples, the world will hate you because you are mine.
05:58 So we cannot hope to follow Jesus and continue to to live like those who do not follow him.
06:05 Saint John and his first letter writes these powerful words "do not love the world or the things in the world, for if anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not the father but is of the world and the world passes away and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever."
06:43 How is my life different from those who are of the world? So let's look more closely at Saint John Paul the Second's list. How am I putting Jesus Christ at the center of every action of my daily life? How am I transforming my daily life through prayer? How am I animating society with the Christian spirit in my professional duties and in family life?
07:14 You know, we can become discouraged about all the bad things that are happening in our world today. Swept up as it is by the tide of godlessness that characterizes our age. But most of what we hear about is beyond our direct control. However, our day to day actions, how we choose to live each day is very much in our control. And this gives us hope that we can make a difference through those small actions in our daily life. Because that is how we transform society and the world is one action at a time. One person at a time.
08:03 Now we can. We have to avoid two mistakes with the lay charism. One of I've already been been discussing is that we become worldly. We simply become like everyone else in the world, not only in the world, but actually becoming of the world, but we also want to avoid an opposite error, which is this, that we barricade ourselves behind a kind of ghetto mentality and just have the elect chosen here and the rest of the world that is off to damnation out there. Neither of those are the correct expression of the lay charism. Neither of those are are capable of effective evangelization. Rather, the lay charism lies in Jesus himself while not becoming of the world he saved world.
08:58 One of the great 20th century theologians, Hans Urs von Balthasar are who is both a friend of Saint John Paul the Second and benedict the 16th. I did my doctoral work on him. He said, "the Church must be as engaged with the world as the divine Son was to his human nature." Think about that. The divine Son who took our human nature and united it to his divine person and his divine nature says that's how closely the Church must be engaged with the world. And you know what that meant? What shape did that take in our Lord's life? The cross. Becoming worldly or abandoning the world, are choices to avoid the cross. But our Lord shows us that there is no other way to salvation except through his cross. And so like our blessed Lord, the church and our own personal lives will be shaped in a cruciform way if we are following him effectively.
10:12 So like the innkeeper, the laity are supposed to be the heart and the soul of the world where in our Lord's words, salt and light of the world. And so first and foremost, the lay charism is to bring Christ into the secular realm, into the office, into the store, into family life, into the car. When we're driving, in the interactions that we have with people throughout the day, whether it's a client or a boss, a coworker, a fellow student, someone we just see on the street, all of those areas are areas for of bringing Christ into the world, right? Not becoming of the world, but in that, that small piece of the world where I do have an effect through my daily action to imbue that, to expel the spirit of the world from that place and to imbue it with, with the spirit of Christ, claiming it for the Kingdom of God.
11:17 So do our homes and our workplaces run in a way that have Christ at the center? Are they places of prayer? Does Christ inform what happens at home, at work or at school? And this isn't easy because we're weak and it can be very difficult to bring Christ where he is not wanted. But we have to remember what the Lord has done, that he has already won the victory for us. And here he is in the Mass pouring out his life upon us, drawing us into his sacrifice and giving us his flesh and blood so that we have not only everything we need, but infinitely more that can give us the hope and the grace and the courage and the creativity to take him out there.
12:17 So if we find ourselves in a place of darkness where the light of Christ is not shown, then be the light in that place, letting the light of Christ shine out from within you. If you look at the innkeeper, he's one who's doing a very ordinary type of work. In fact, he even gets paid for doing it by the Good Samaritan. It seems very ordinary and it is, but he uses that ordinary moment to do something extraordinary that is to accomplish the will of God in that moment and in that place. This is what the laity are supposed to do. The same thing, to take the ordinary everyday life as it is and make that the stuff to accomplish the occasion, to accomplish the will of God in that time and in that place to expel the spirit of the world and to plant the Kingdom of Christ.
13:23 GK Chesterton, the famous Catholic writer, he once wrote this, "the most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman, and their ordinary children. It's right there. It's not so, so far away and remote in the heavens or across the sea. It's right here in the day to day moments of our life.
13:53 I'll give you an example comes from Cardinal Dolan, who was my seminary rector. In one of his talks, he told us the story of one of his father's better moments, which was actually at his wake after he had suddenly died of a heart attack. And a man that Cardinal Dolan had never met before, who is obviously very saddened by the death of his father, came to offers his condolences and said, you know, it's because of your dad that I'm a Catholic. Well, what do you mean? He said it continued. I worked with your dad. I've had some tough times. I've battled alcohol. My wife died of cancer a few years back. I almost lost my job. I'd be right at the bottom. And your dad would come through with just the right word of encouragement or an expression of hope or an offer of help. I could always count on him to say the right thing and to do the right thing. And finally one day I asked, I said, Bob, where do you get your outlook? Where do you get your reason to keep on going? Your Dad told me, I don't know. It's my faith, I guess. I believe that God has a plan and a purpose and that he's always going to give us the strength and the grace to get through. Well, the man concluded. All I knew is I wanted that, and so I embraced Christ in his church.
15:20 An ordinary moment of an ordinary day in an ordinary life of doing something extraordinary to accomplish the will of God in that moment and in that place. So Saint John Paul the Second gives us a new look into this parable. The innkeeper who takes a very ordinary event in his everyday life as the opportunity to accomplish God's will. We have only to keep Jesus Christ, our Eucharistic Lord as the source and center of everything we are in everything we do, and then take the stuff of our day and transform that little part of the world into the Kingdom of Heaven.