Mundane and Magical
Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to end our vacation at that sunny, beachside resort after a single week and could live there all the time? Wouldn’t we jump for joy if we never had to look at the prices on the menu or struggle to find time in our schedules for things like oil changes or the dog’s shots? Wouldn’t we be the envy of everyone if we could trade in all our work stress for day after day of the quite peacefulness we usually only find on retreat?
Well, no. It wouldn’t. Sure, all that would be great for a while but not forever. The reason we fondly recount memories of our vacations or retreats is precisely because they aren’t “real life.” The reason it’s so fun to order champagne and lobster on a special occasion is precisely because we can only do so rarely. In fact, it’s all the things we’d rather do without – sweeping out the garage, rush hour traffic, expired coupons, root canals, loud neighbors, taxes – that make all the things we treasure so precious. It’s the mundane that creates the magical.
Last week’s Gospel reading tells the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration. He takes his friends up the mountain to pray when – shazam! Before their eyes Jesus’ face changes in appearance and his clothing becomes dazzling white. And not only that, two of the all-time Hebrew heavyweights, Moses and Elijah, appear in glory right alongside him. In his naïve excitement, Peter comes up with a plan. Let’s set up shop right here! Let’s not go back down the mountain, back to our ho-hum, ordinary lives. Let’s put the smell of rotting fish and the Roman occupation behind us. Let’s make this magical moment last forever (Luke 9: 28-33).
Just then, the voice of God is heard from the heavens as “a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened . . .” (34). Last week’s Gospel reading ends there, but it’s important to note what happens after that. They come back down the mountain the next day (37). In other words, Jesus didn’t want to stay in the magic. He needed to get back to the mundane.
In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, we’ll hear Jesus tell the parable of the fig tree. An orchard owner bemoans the sorry state of the fig tree that he had planted three full years ago but never bore fruit. His gardener tells him, “’ ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not, you can cut it down’” (Luke 13: 6-9). Oddly, the story ends abruptly there, but the implication is clear. Sometimes you must live through years of mundane barrenness before you can enjoy the magic of new fruit.
I’ll be honest. If I had a chance at long-term resort living where champagne and lobster replaced meatloaf as the usual Tuesday night fare, I’d give it a shot. I’d like to think I’m more spiritually evolved than that, but the truth is that when given a choice, I’ll hit the “easy button” every time. But in my clearer moments I know that it’s the messy, boring, mundane parts of our lives that give birth to the magic. It’s regular ol’ human life that creates space for the divine.