Extraordinary ordinariness

Last week I had the privilege and joy to participate in the installation Mass of our new Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha. From the day that it was announced that he would be the eighth Bishop of the Diocese of Fall River, discussions throughout the diocese have centered on trying to determine what kind of shepherd he would be. All of the chatter was put to rest at the installation Mass and reception where we had our first opportunity to interact directly with Bishop Edgar. He took the time to speak to everyone who attended the reception and even took time to have a photo taken with anyone who asked. 

When I had a few moments to speak to him, I asked him how he was doing. Was he tired? He just smiled, thanked us for coming and then reached out to another of the hundreds of people who came to welcome him. One of our UMass Dartmouth students, who were invited to serve as ushers at the Mass, asked him if it was OK if she took a selfie! “Sure, why not?” he said. It didn’t take long for us to understand what type of shepherd he would be and his homily confirmed his and our hopes and direction for the Diocese of Fall River and for the people. 

This all brought to mind a phrase I have often heard, “Live an extraordinary life in an ordinary way.” Maybe it goes the other way around but in any case it’s a call to action and it basically tells us that we don’t have to be out on a soapbox or out front. We don’t need to use a bully pulpit. We don’t need to call-out those who live a life that doesn’t quite live up to what a Christian is expected to do. We can simply bring others to Christ by our living an ordinary Christian life. We can make a difference in the world by being ordinary. 

In a recent TV interview he said, “[I’m] honestly a little uncomfortable. I’d rather be on the sideline just doing the work without the spotlight.” In his simple and ordinary demeanor, Bishop Edgar brought this phrase to life in my mind. An ordinary man of God, a simple and holy priest, blessed with the extraordinary call to lead the people of God in this diocese. 

Calling our bishop ordinary is hardly a put down. There isn’t anything wrong with being ordinary.

After all, the first 30 years of Jesus’ life were pretty ordinary. He lived in an ordinary home in an ordinary town. He worked with His dad. He learned a trade. I’m sure He helped His mom around the house. I think that this is a model for all of us. This ordinary time took up most of His life so I’m thinking it must be an important message to us all!

Even when He began His public ministry, most of what He did was ordinary. He traveled with friends, He preached, He taught. Yet in each of these ordinary events He showed us what it means to live an extraordinary life!

Think about His miracles. The first took place at an ordinary event — a wedding. The ordinary became extraordinary when He turned the water into wine. The ordinary Passover dinner on what we now call Holy Thursday was a meal with friends that turned extraordinary when He turned the bread and wine into His Own Body. The ordinary act of dying turned extraordinary at His Resurrection. 

Jesus. A Man Who lived, and felt like we do. He laughed, He cried, He loved and He even got angry. That is pretty ordinary stuff. But in how He took the ordinary and made it extraordinary is where I think the message lies.

I truly believe that each and every one of us can be extraordinary — but in an ordinary way. I don’t have to give out profound messages, nor write a column that will razzle- dazzle people. I only have to be me doing the best I can and living a life modeled on Christ.

There is a song, whose title escapes me now, that has the stanza, “I only have to be what You made me.” The artist is saying that God gave us talents and abilities and we only need to use them to the best of our ability. Some folks are musicians, others are writers and scholars. Others are good people who live what would be considered a simple life. 

It is in that ordinariness that we can each be extraordinary. In his homily, Bishop Edgar challenged all of us and himself to welcome Jesus into our lives, to be accepting of all those made in the image and likeness of God and to be a welcoming Church. I would like to challenge each of us today to look around in our ordinary lives and see what we can turn to the extraordinary. Take a look at the person who is marginalized by society, or ostracized in school or work and reach out to them. Visit the sick or call someone who is lonely. Thank a teacher for their hard work. Show support to someone who is upset, ill or hurting. Work at a soup kitchen, teach a Religious Education class or rake someone’s lawn. 

It is in these ordinary actions that someone will see Jesus in us. They will want to know why you are the way you are. They will try to be more like you. That simple ordinary action will affect others in such a way that they will change a bit and so will you. Bishop Edgar’s kind, gentle, humble, ordinary ways, I predict, will be an extraordinary example to us in this region, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. His and our ordinary actions of our ordinary lives may bring someone to come to know Jesus better. Now that’s extraordinary!

Anchor columnist Frank Lucca is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Fall River, a youth minister at St. Dominic’s Parish in Swansea, and a campus minister at UMass Dartmouth. He is married to his wife of 35 years, Kristine, and the father of two daughters and their husbands, and a seven-month-old grandson. Comments, ideas or suggestions? Please email him at DeaconFrankLucca@comcast.net.

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