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To See the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Updated: 6 days ago

Homily of H.E. Most Rev. Charles John Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines

July 7, 2024 | 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

St. Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral, Cagayan de Oro City 

3rd day of the 128th Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines


Address and Greetings

Your Eminence, Jose Cardinal Advincula, Jr., Archbishop of Manila; Your Excellency, Archbishop Jose A. Cabantan, Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro; Your Excellency, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines; my brother bishops of the CBCP gathered in the Plenary Assembly here in Cagayan de Oro; priests of the diocese, religious sisters here in large numbers, religious brothers; most of all, you, the faithful people of Cagayan de Oro:


It's wonderful to be with you this evening. It gives me so much joy. The opening prayer for Mass tonight spoke about gladness and joy, and that was certainly the emotions that I'm experiencing here in St. Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral this evening. Gladness and joy to be with you, as your Apostolic Nuncio, as the representative of Pope Francis here in the Philippines. It is a joy to be with you tonight, with the entire episcopate of the Philippines, the entire group of bishops. What a singular honor for your archdiocese, for your cathedral, to have all the bishops of the Philippines here with you this evening for this Mass.



Gospel Reflection

In our Gospel tonight (Mark 6:1-6), we heard about how Jesus came to His hometown, and He wasn't accepted by the people there. In fact, when He comes, He begins to teach in the synagogue; and the people who hear Him are kind of astonished by what He's saying. How do they respond in the Gospel tonight? They begin to murmur, to complain. They say, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Isn’t he the carpenter, the son of Mary? Isn’t he the male relative of James, Joses, and Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his female relatives, his sisters also, aren't they here in the town? Where did he get all this stuff from?”


So it's very interesting—Jesus has not been accepted by His people. They are unable to see the reality of the one who is before them. The Jewish people were waiting for the Messiah—the great leader who would come back and liberate Israel and chase the Romans out, and restore the Kingdom of Israel. Now they see someone that they see is very normal, very ordinary. And they're kind of—as the Gospel says—scandalized by His normalcy, or the fact that they're not seeing anything extraordinary in Jesus. 


You know we have that ancient proverb, “Familiarity breeds contempt”. Maybe you've heard that. It means when we're familiar with someone, even someone of great value, after a while we have less respect for them. That's really what Jesus is experiencing in His own town in Nazareth [as read] in the Gospel: contempt from the people who are with Him, the people of the village. They were expecting something much more. They cannot see the reality of the one in front of them. Jesus is “God, from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.” That is the one standing before them, and they are unable to see this extraordinary reality. They see only the ordinary, and they can't see the extraordinary.


Think about the miracles of Jesus as compared to the miracles of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, the miracles were spectacular: Moses parted the Red Sea, the Israelite people walked through the Red Sea on dry ground with water on their left and the right, and when they were chased by the Egyptians, the waters came back and destroyed [and] drowned the Egyptian army (Exodus 14:15—15:1)—an extraordinary, spectacular miracle. We think about when Joshua was fighting against the enemies of Israel: the sun stood still so that he could continue the battle. The day didn't end normally; the day went on and on, for hours and hours, the sun standing still (Joshua 10:13-15). Total incredible, spectacular miracle.


Think about the miracles of Jesus. They're much more discreet, much more ordinary. They are true miracles—Jesus is God, working miracles. But most of the miracles that Jesus works, you need to have faith to see the miracle. You need to believe in order to see the miracle. Think about the Wedding Feast at Cana where He changes water into wine. The Gospel (John 2:1-12) tells us that even the head waiter who gives this new wine didn't know where the wine came from. That means that Jesus didn't work that miracle in front of everybody. He did it in a silent way, in a hidden way. Maybe in a side room or something. The miracles of Jesus in the New Testament are much more ordinary. They're not spectacular. A little girl dies, Jesus goes into her room, takes her by the hand, she comes back to life (Mark 5:21-24, 35b-43). But if you don't believe, you could say she wasn't really dead, she was just in a coma, Jesus came at the right moment and she got better at that moment.


To understand the truth of the miracle you need to have faith.

Think about the miracle of miracles: the virginal conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary. The moment in which Mary becomes pregnant—an incredible miracle. A virgin becomes pregnant by the action of the Holy Spirit. Who really saw that miracle? Mary, certainly in Nazareth the same people we hear about in the Gospel today ... I'm sure in Nazareth when Mary became pregnant before she was living with Joseph, before their wedding feasts, people had their own interpretations of what had happened and why she was pregnant. Of course, they couldn't see the miracle because they didn't believe.


This is the point. If we want to see the extraordinary, we have to have faith. We only sometimes see the ordinary, if we don't have eyes of faith.

Even the Eucharist. Think about the Eucharist we celebrate this evening, brothers and sisters. Ordinary things—bread and wine—become the extraordinary gift of the Eucharist for us tonight in Cagayan de Oro. Jesus' Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity will be received by us tonight. Under forms that are very ordinary.


If you don't have faith, to see Jesus in the Eucharist, you will not see the extraordinary gift of the Eucharist. 

You'll only see the ordinary—just like the people in Nazareth—tonight. When they were only able to see the ordinary in Jesus and not the extraordinary person that He is and was.


This is our challenge of faith, brothers and sisters, to see in the ordinary the extraordinary. That's what faith gives us: the ability to perceive, to see reality as it really is. Because all the miracles that I've been mentioning to you: the virginal conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary, the raising up of a little girl who had died, the changing of water into wine, those are true miracles, moments in which God suspends the natural order and intervenes directly; but if you don't have faith, you're not going to see it. 


That's why we need to have faith, brothers and sisters. That's why the Philippines is a beautiful place because a place for faith is alive. Why are we here this evening together with our bishops? Because we have faith, we believe. That is why we are here. That is a beautiful thing.


So let's pray for faith. Let us ask for faith. Let's try to always see the extraordinary manifestations of God's action all around us, in ordinary circumstances. Let's look to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.


Ordinariness In Extraordinariness

Pope Francis, whose representative I am here in the Philippines, talks about this idea of ordinariness in extraordinariness. He says this in his beautiful document Gaudete Et Exsultate, the Apostolic Exhortation on the Call to Holiness that he wrote back in 2018. He's asking us to strive for holiness. He has that play [of words] between what's ordinary and what's extraordinary. He says we need to be ordinary saints, living our ordinary lives in an extraordinary way (GEE #17). He talks about saints next door, ordinary saints, ordinary people, mothers and fathers, children, students, priests, and sisters, living our ordinary lives in an extraordinary way.


In that document, Pope Francis quotes Cardinal Văn Thuận, who was a heroic Vietnamese Cardinal, who was imprisoned during the communist time in Vietnam, and suffered greatly in prison during that period. A great man who is now declared a Venerable Servant of God. He has a line that Pope Francis quotes in the Gaudete Et Exsultate about ordinary and extraordinary. Cardinal Văn Thuận, who was imprisoned for many, many years wrote this. He said, “I will accomplish ordinary actions in an extraordinary way” (Gaudete Et Exsultate #17).


Isn't that what it is for us to be Catholics? Do extraordinary things that we do everyday with an extraordinary attitude—the attitude of faith. To see that in the ordinary, we find the extraordinary. If we have the eyes of faith. That's our message this evening.


Conclusion

So brothers and sisters here in the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, you can see that for me as your Apostolic Nuncio, it gives me so much joy to be with you this evening. I've come from Manila just this morning, with our newly arrived Councilor at the Nunciature, Monsignor Giuseppe Trentadue, an Italian priest who has come to work here with me in the Apostolic Nunciature. We're both so happy to be with you this evening to celebrate our faith, this Catholic faith across the entire world. You as Filipinos in every corner of the world are living this faith, are seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. That is the gift of our faith. Thank you for your witnesses this evening. Thank you for coming.


Please pray for me. Pray for your bishops, who are behind me. Most of all, as I must say, as the representative of the Pope, pray for Pope Francis.


May God bless you!


Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo

Photos from DZRV 846 Facebook page

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