Book Review: Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace by Scott Hahn

Ordinary Work, Extraordinary GraceThis is such a wonderful book! It is so rich with insights into Catholic spirituality and theology that I hardly know where to begin. Within these pages, Scott Hahn recounts his first encounter and experience with Opus Dei. It’s partly a spiritual memoir, and partly an exposition of what Opus Dei, as an institution and a family, is all about.

I would’ve filled the pages of this book with markings and notations if it belonged to me. A friend lent it to me a few weeks ago. He invited me to attend Opus Dei recollections and “circle” meetings early this year, and since then I got hooked. I looked forward to attending the recollections every month. It is a source of spiritual strength for me.

The book explains that at the heart of Opus Dei is this truth of “divine filiation” — we are all God’s children. As I’ve said, this book is packed with so much insights that I’m at a loss where to start. But among all the things that Scott Hahn discussed, this appealed to me the most — that we can do God’s work (opus Dei) here on earth. With our hands, efforts, energies, and activities, we can continue God’s work here on earth; we can work hard, we can work well, we can strive for excellence in every area of our lives (in our professional life, in our family life, in our day to day routines, and so on), and we can offer them to God so that He may bless, sanctify, or consecrate our work and our efforts and make them holy, and in the process making us and the people who will be served or touched by our work or service holy. Isn’t that an indescribably wonderful and beautiful thing? To think that we can extend God’s work here on earth using our own hands! To think that we can save or redeem the world with our ordinary day to day tasks! To think that we have this ability to spread holiness and transformation all around us! So work, no matter how ordinary, tedious, difficult, or seemingly insignificant it may be, is actually a gift, because we can use it as an instrument to sanctify ourselves, other people, and the world. It is similar to the gift possessed by King Midas — we have the privilege of turning things and people into “gold”, but in a supremely good sense.

Because God is perfect, He deserves nothing but the best from us, so we should strive to give excellent work and offer it to Him so that He may bless it.

We can also offer the struggles and the pain we experience in our work to God during the Holy Mass so that they may be united with God’s sacrifice of Himself in the Holy Eucharist. Hence, work is not a necessary evil. It is not a punishment from God. It is, rather, a gift that gives us the opportunity to share in Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice.

Of course, Opus Dei is founded on Scripture, too, as well as the teachings of the Church Fathers. Thus, it takes seriously this challenge from Scripture of a “universal call to holiness.” Its founder, St. Josemaria Escriva, was steeped in Scripture and the writings of the Fathers. He often reminded the faithful that we are all called to become saints, but that we don’t have to remove ourselves from the world. We can still become saints wherever we are placed by God. In the midst of the world, at the heart of the “hustle and bustle” of daily life, we can be “contemplatives in action” — we can be holy and transform the world from within.

I also find this idea of an “apostolate of friendship” very beautiful and appealing. It is a call for discipleship that is based on “handshakes and heart-to-hearts.”

And all that is just the tip of the ice berg. There is still much in this book that I cannot now explain. I may have to read it again someday. I highly recommend it!

My rating: 5/5 stars.
Date read: June 1-11, 2014.

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