He did it religiously.

Every afternoon, following a large lunch and usually a piece of pie, my grandfather would head out for a walk around his neighborhood. He had been a teacher and principal of the local high school for 40+ year and so nearly every person in his small Ohio town knew my grandfather by name.

Over the years my grandfather’s walk slowed in pace and shortened in length, but everyday at about 1 p.m. you could find him walking the streets of his hometown. He took this walk religiously. It’s funny how we use the world “religiously” to describe a practice or habit that someone does repeatedly. If someone has a good habit built up, we say they religiously do that thing. 

In the gospel this Sunday, Luke describes Jesus going to synagogue and reading from a scroll. It feels like the first act of a life of public ministry. Luke says that Jesus went to the synagogue that day “according to his custom.” In other words, Jesus regularly attended the synagogue in his hometown. Going to the synagogue was an ordinary practice for Jesus. One might say he went religiously. 

We humans often think that things that happen regularly are boring or mundane. While in some cases that might be true, just because something happens time and time again doesn’t make that thing any less significant. The sun rises everyday but if we are paying attention, it can be a pretty extraordinary thing.

After Jesus read the scroll with the messianic prophecy from Isaiah, he sat down. While everyone starred at him, he said, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” This was an extraordinary moment. Jesus publicly declares that he is the chosen messiah spoken about in the Old Testament. Jesus exclaims that he has come to bring glad tidings to the poor, recover the sight of the blind, free the oppressed, and proclaim a year of jubilee. These are the actions of the messiah. 

I see two take aways for us. First, Jesus is Lord and he purposefully says so. Secondly, amazing, extraordinary things not only can happen in ordinary, regular moments, but often only because those moments occur with regularity.

The truth is we encounter a great deal of miraculous, astonishing, and extraordinary things in our daily lives. We have just become numb to their profound awesomeness. God blesses us abundantly and we often get bored with the incredible. 

Mass is an example of this experience. We go to Mass week after week and for many of us it feels like the same old thing again and again. The reality is that during Mass the veil between heaven and earth falls, the bread and wine on the altar transform into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, and our God comes so close to us we can taste him. While we might attend Mass religiously, we should never let Mass become empty repetition. After all, it is always extraordinary. 

Live It: Go to Mass and pretend it is your first Mass ever. Try to see, feel, smell, hear, and taste everything as if it is the first time ever. Let yourself be amazed.

Sunday Readings January 23, 2022.