April 24, 2024 // Perspective

Finding God in Our Mundane, Majestic Daily Lives

As we take a turn at the end of April and beginning of May, for many of us who are attached to the flow of the school year (students, teachers, administrators, and parents alike), the energy and excitement of the beginning begins to wear out. In the midst of this experience tied to the context of the Easter season, Jesus’ promise of not just life, but abundant life, can maybe ring a little hollow in our ears.

So, it is worth stopping and considering: What is this abundant life Jesus promises us? And why does He promise abundant life in the Gospel within the image of the sheep and shepherd (cf. John 10)? To the first question, when I hear the promise of abundant life, I think of my nieces and nephews – and of the wise words of G.K. Chesterton in his “Orthodoxy”:

“The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.”

The point is this: I propose that the abundant life Christ offers us is rooted in a childlike delight – which is really the expression of an authentic and limitless gratitude. This gratitude finds joy in the monotony precisely because it is a sign of the gift of life and of being deeply cared for. Death causes sudden change; life grows and develops but is not jarring.

And that gets to the second point. The image of the sheep and shepherd is an image of a most banal and monotonous existence. And that is how it communicates the depth of God’s love for us.

The daily grind of the shepherd and sheep that is needed to maintain life is the mode by which the deep delight of the reciprocal relationship develops between sheep and shepherd. It is because of the closeness and apparent stability of the day that the sheep can recognize the voice of the shepherd, and that the shepherd can know his sheep. The image is perfect to emphasize the depth of delight and interest God takes in us – and the abundance of life that comes through gratitude to and delight in God. Jesus came so that He could know us like a shepherd knows his sheep – through the intimate sharing of life in daily existence.

The greatest example is, of course, the Eucharist – there it is, always the same, every time we gather around the altar. Do we approach the Lord with the entitled attitude of the grown-up? Or do we approach our Shepherd and Lord with childlike wonder and delight, which comes to the altar asking a close friend and beloved, “Do it again!” Please, God, give us that kind of life.

So as change begins to interrupt the monotony of our daily existence with the improving weather, vacations, and break from the daily repetition that something like a school brings to our lives, we can stop and consider where the Lord has increased our delight in Him and where He has expressed His delight in us, precisely through the daily existence that we have been blessed to live.

Father Mark Hellinger is Parochial Vicar at St. John the Baptist Church in Fort Wayne.

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