Adventure or Cautious Mediocrity?

Photography © by Andy Coan

Photography © by Andy Coan

Peter… Paul… Isaiah… Frodo Baggins. They have more in common than meets the eye.

Of course there are differences, too. Peter is a small business man, trying to wring a living for his family out of a lake in Hicksville. No one expected much from Galilee. Its inhabitants had a thick country accent that gave them away every time, like when Peter denied Christ in the high priest’s courtyard (Mat 26:73). Saul, on the other hand, was cosmopolitan, highly educated, well-traveled, and even a Roman citizen. Isaiah lived seven centuries before them, in a very different social context. Frodo Baggins lived in Middle Earth, which is to say, in the imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien, and now lives in the imaginations of millions.

But here’s what they have in common. They were all minding their own business, intent on their own careers, when they were abruptly interrupted. They each had an encounter with something… Someone much bigger than themselves… and were invited to embark upon a Great Adventure. The same vision was revealed to each of them. That behind the appearances of the humdrum of everyday life, there was a battle going on, a dramatic struggle with very high stakes. People were in bondage but D-day had come. The forces of salvation were on the move. And each of them, Peter, Paul, Isaiah, and Frodo, were called to enlist.

None of them would have been voted most likely to succeed. Isaiah thought he’d die. Peter felt so unworthy that he begged Christ to leave. Paul lamented the blood that was on his hands.  Frodo staggered under the burden of his appointed task.

But they all said yes. And though they met hardship, withering resistance, and had to face the bitter disappointment of their own sin, they kept going. They left behind the familiarity of the lake, the synagogue, the shire, and embarked upon a Great Adventure. That Adventure brought them through suffering to everlasting glory and made them men that they never imagined they could be. Isaiah’s words have been sung by innumerable choirs of men and angels over two thousand years of Masses. Peter’s successor now reigns amidst the ruins of the empire that tormented the martyrs. And Frodo, the pint-sized Hobbit, completes his mission, despite his weakness, and brings down the power of the Dark Lord.

They all illustrate the words of Jesus that the last shall be first, that the least shall be greatest, that God chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Our hearts are warmed by the Gospel story. We applaud at the conclusion of the Lord of the Rings.

And then we go back to business as usual, never suspecting that we may be called, just as they were called. That the battle rages around us, as it did around them.

We are just like them. Imperfect. Unworthy. Busy with other things. The reality is that each one of us is called to the heights of sanctity, to become something beautiful and mighty for God. God has destined each one of us to change the course of history, to leave an everlasting mark on the destinies of countless people. There are different roles to be played, of course. Mary’s role was different from Isaiah’s, Magdalene’s, Paul’s, and Peter’s. Frodo, Aragorn, Pippin, Sam – all had different though equally essential roles.

But most of us will prefer reading about the exploits of others rather than answering our own call, staying in the Shire where it is comfortable, safe, predictable. The word “pagan” means non-combatant. “Christian,” on the other hand, means anointed for combat. There really is no room for the spiritual coach potato in the Kingdom of God. Being a Christian is not about getting to heaven by the skin of your teeth after a life of cautious mediocrity. It’s about an adventure that leads to glory, but only through perilous battles. You can choose to be safe if you want. But the possibilities of who you could have become and whose lives you might have saved will always be there to haunt you.

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the Sunday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time (Year C) – Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8; Psalms 138:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 7-8; First Corinthians 15:1-11 or 15:; Luke 5:1-11. This series for reflections on the coming Sunday Readings usually appears each Wednesday.


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118. This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is reproduced here by permission of the author.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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