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Life’s ordinary miracles

By Fr. Bill Ashbaugh

Life’s ordinary miracles

Where to find God in everyday experiences

The other Sunday, I baptized a little girl who was just three days old. As I held her in my arms, she fell asleep. Wow! I felt like melting. As I looked at this precious little treasure, I knew I was looking at a deep mystery – the image of God in a baby girl’s sleeping face. (Gen 1:27) The baby’s parents were watching their little one with love and awe in their eyes. Mom said, “She is a miracle.” God had sent this child to them. They were right.

Miracles in the strictest sense go beyond the laws of nature and have God as their author. They help us see God. Yet our faith can allow us to see God in the ordinary, as well as in the extraordinary.

I know many people have experienced God in the beauty of a sunset, the passing fragrance of flowers, or the incredible animals God has made. How about just looking up into the stars at night – what a thing to ponder! Scripture says that all of creation points to Jesus, who is its center. “He is the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth … all things were created through him and for him.” (Col 1:15-16)

The ordinary world around us is not so ordinary. For our spiritual fitness this month, let’s consider some simple “miracles” in the obvious and ordinary. These can help us get more in touch with God.

Miracle of being

I exist. What may seem to be the most simple and obvious condition we experience – our existence –  is itself a first encounter with a miracle from God. It is a profound experience to realize that “I have been created by God.” Many holy men and women write about an “I am” experience where God gives them a profound awareness of their existence in relation to God’s own. Usually, when that happens, their “I am” experience is also an “I am – not.” experience in relationship to God. We are created and can say “I am” only because we have come from the great “I AM.” (Exod 3:14) To begin this mediation, find a quiet place where you can pray and be with the Lord. Pray Psalm 139. Ask the Lord to help guide your thoughts. Reflect on your life. God was with you every step. What is your earliest memory? Reflect on the phrase, “You knit me in my mother’s womb.” Now think about the time you did not exist. One year before your birth you were not. God knew you before you were in the womb. God willed you to be. God spoke your name and called you into being. You can say, “I am.” You will exist forever. God loved you in creating you and loves you in willing you to be. Ponder the mystery.

Miracle of sense

How incredible it is to see, to hear, to touch, to smell, to taste. Our senses bring us into relationship with the world around us and open the door for us to go beyond our senses to God. Some of you may have lost one of the senses. Often those who have lost some sense have much to teach us all about gratitude. To begin this mediation, go outside and focus on each sense for two or more minutes. What do you see, hear, taste, smell and touch? Ponder how amazing it all is. Spend time in thanksgiving. In the second meditation, think about the sacraments, beginning with baptism. Think about when you received them. Pictures can help here. God chose to communicate himself to us in the simple elements of water, oil, bread and wine, and light. These are sacred signs that we see, hear, touch, smell and taste. How ordinary all these things seem to be, but hidden in them all is God who continues to draw us to himself. Now, as you are praying, focus again on each of your senses and pray:

Our senses are amazing. They connect us to our world and to God. They are meant to help us love God more. However, remember one thing in this meditation: Our senses can deceive us. Sometimes people get stuck along their spiritual way, because they get fixated or dazzled by something that wows the senses. God is beyond the senses.  God, as we grow in our union with him, will purify us from all of our false gods and attachments gained through the senses. St. John of the Cross calls this the “dark night of the senses.”

Miracle of God: in the chaos of life

I can see beyond the senses, and even past the events and circumstances of my life, and know there is more. There is purpose and meaning in my life, even if it is chaotic. Miracles can happen in the chaos. Meaning can come out of madness. Our lives have meaning because of Jesus Christ. He is my anchor in turbulent waters. He is my rock of refuge, my shelter, my deliverer. He is light shining in the darkness. He is my hope.

A few months back, I was involved with a family who had lost their daughter, Angie, to the tsunami. In the face of such a terrible loss, many wondered, “Where are you, God?” Many struggled with hope. Angela’s family shared with me that, in their search for Angie, they experienced God’s special help and providence in many ways. Angie had been with her boyfriend, Luke, when the tsunami hit. They and thousands of others on the beach were killed by the wave. Families and friends tried desperately to find whatever information they could about their loved ones. Many computers were set up to help families identify the victims. Angie’s family was just about ready to take their turn on one when another person cut in front of them. They knew they shared the same urgency to get whatever information they could, so they simply asked if they could watch over the person’s shoulder as the images of the victims came across the screen. As they watched, they soon realized they were looking for the same people! The person who had cut in front of them was one of Luke and Angie’s friends, and was there on behalf of Luke’s family. Of all the thousands of people there in the chaos, somehow these two families were united. God was there. Only God could have brought them together in such a critical time so that they could support and comfort each other. God is in the midst of life’s chaos, bringing us hope and love. In this meditation, think about the times in your life when things were dark; remember how God helped you to have hope. Experience his love. Read the story of Lazarus in the Gospel of John, chapter 11.