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In 2001, Jennifer Miller was a student at Fordham University, well on her track to being a physicist. And one day, she received a letter via e-mail to be a panelist at a Bioethics conference in Rome on stem cell research. She was intrigued and honored by such an incredible privilege and accepted readily, thinking they wanted to hear what a young person had to say, even though she had very little knowledge on stem cell research itself; she started to do some reading and research immediately. She made all her arrangements including taking her final exams early, got her flight and hotel accommodations. When she arrived in Rome at the conference she found out that the invitation was a mistake; it was a different Jennifer Miller who had been invited. She was embarrassed and so too were the organizers because indeed it was an e-mail from them. They indeed had to do something so they invited her as a guest to the full conference. So she attended the closed-door sessions of this whole conference as just an observer but what a privilege. She sat intrigued, fascinated by the discussions that took place between the world-reknown scientists, theologians, philosophers and even the policy makers. In all of this, her love of Stem Cell research began in that very moment.
She has since gone on to found Bioethics International here in the United States and has put on more than 2,500 clinician workshops and has worked with over 1500 companies, who provide health care using stem cell research. She has enabled people to really understand the moral ramifications in a powerful in the way she presents. Coincidence or Providence?
Those people of no faith will say such an incident is coincidence and will merely dismiss it readily and say, such things like this random accidents happen around the world. People without faith will explain away today’s gospel by saying that the jump in the womb of Elizabeth was merely an ordinary kick that ordinarily happens when somebody walks into the room. People without faith would see nothing special about Christmas or Jesus; they would see it no more fascinating than Frosty Snowman. People without faith are not fascinated by Christ or his life on earth and would say he reached the inevitable conclusion of being a political activist in Roman times, death on a cross. They might even get a little repugnant by how much attention he gets. But of significance, they put nothing to it. Coincidence! They say.
As people of faith, we would look at what that happened to Jennifer Miller as a powerful way of God’s grace, what we call Providence at work —in a real and tangible way, God produced an option in her life that she chose and followed; what would then become her vocation in life. As people of faith, we listen to today’s gospel with very different ears. We hear in the gospel how it is not a coincidence but it is Providence. We believe, in and through Mary, came Christ Jesus, who literally changed the world and its history. We do not see an ordinary birth, we see a miraculous virgin birth, the birth of our Savior. In so doing, we recognize that Jesus was not only just an ordinary man but he was God made flesh. We see the leaping of John in his mother’s womb as a powerful sign to the wonderful adventure that was going to begin. John the Baptist knew it even before he was born. As people of faith, we see things very differently. The same ordinary events are extraordinary to us.
And if that be the case, then we need to revisit our own lives and look at our own lives much more carefully because what may seem as ordinary choices, an ordinary series of events may indeed be extraordinary. Think of a moment how you got to where you are today. How you met your spouse, how you came to the job you have now, the school you now attend. Coincidence or providence? They may not be a set or a series of coincidences but may indeed be God’s Providence at work. Actually, more to the point, we as people of faith believe, all things can be made good in God; not that all things that happen to us are great and wonderful things but God will good out of all things if we let him. When we get ill or getting old and find it difficult to do things, these are not just good things, but God can make good of all things, but we must have eyes of faith to see it differently. We must be willing to not write off things as mere coincidence but ready to see that God’s Grace and God’s Providence is at work.
I know Christmas is a stressful time for families, and the run up to it is even more stressful between all the presents, the parties, the preparations or merely just getting ready and getting all those cards out, the stress level rises up. Sometimes in the midst of all of that stress, we lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas that Christ came, the Word was made flesh and came as a human being. This extraordinary act is somehow being repeated in each of our lives, each and every day. Somewhere in our lives, God is operating and in some small way what we might call an ordinary thing, is an extraordinary moment where God is breaking through. We just need to see it with eyes of faith.
So, as we leave here today renewed once again and in this late Advent, eagerly anticipating the Lord’s presence once again at Christmas, we have to look, not at the extraordinary and miraculous things in our life, but look at the ordinary and everyday events, the meeting of an old friend, a chance bumping into somebody at the store, the seemingly random phone call, all these are not coincidences. They are opportunities of God’s Providence. With eyes of faith, we can see that. So let us be keenly aware this week with eyes of faith for the ordinary moments that can be extraordinary. There are no coincidences only God’s providence.
Adapted from story in http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2009_06_05/caredit.a0900072