January 13, 2007


Happy Ordinary Time everyone, and here's my homily for this weekend:

“Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.”

And so friends, as we begin this season of winter Ordinary Time, we hear John the Evangelist’s version of the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Without anyone seeing how it happened, water blushes into wine in the presence of the Word through which it was created, and the wedding celebration is saved from certain disaster and embarrassment.

John tells us that the sign Jesus does at Cana serves to reveal his glory. And this glory is the glory of the unseen God, the “heavenly king/ almighty God and Father” to whom we sing in the Gloria. In the feasts of the Christmas season, which we have just concluded—in the Nativity, the Epiphany, and the Baptism of the Lord—the Word made flesh appears on earth in order to reveal the glory of God the Father from within our human condition of weakness and limitation.

Seeing the glory of God revealed through the sign at Cana, the disciples begin to believe in Jesus. Let us, too, begin again to believe in Jesus. We have celebrated the great mysteries of the Incarnation in the great feasts of Christmas—now the Church offers us a few quieter weeks to sit back and digest the mysteries, and to believe anew in the quiet of our hearts and minds.

But exactly what is it that we are called to believe in? Perhaps, I suggest to you, today’s Gospel calls us to believe in the possibility of transformation, to believe that God can bring the richness and cheerfulness of wine out of the humble plainness of water.

We are called to have faith in the possibility of transformation in Christ—that our lives and our relationships, even the whole world, can be transformed by grace. As Paul instructs the Roman Christians: “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds, so that you may know what is the will of God; what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Our own patron St. Augustine, in his commentary on the Gospel of John, makes a perceptive comment. He asks us why we should be amazed that at Cana the water was made wine. Doesn’t God turn water into wine every year as vines receive the rains and the grapes grow? In fact nature is full of transformation that is nothing short of miraculous: ugly grubs become beautiful butterflies, tiny acorns become great trees, the love of couples turns into the new life of children.

And we are all too aware this time of year of the transformation of the seasons as we look forward to the day when winter will turn into the new hope and life of spring.

Now it’s an honored and durable catholic principle to say that “grace builds on nature.” So just as the sign at Cana led the disciples to begin to believe in Jesus, so the transformations of nature all around us ought to lead us to believe in the possibility of transformation in Christ for ourselves. To believe that God will take up our little lives and meager efforts and transform them into the great river of grace that flows out of the heavenly Temple and gives life to the whole world in Christ.

The prophet Isaiah gives us a sense of this transformation in today’s first reading. Recall the word of God that the prophet pronounced: “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch.”

Grace and salvation are not just some nice commodity that God happens to have and that we can take if we happen to want them! The salvation of the world and the transformation of our lives by grace in Christ are God’s passion! God’s great desire is to save us, to make us good, to fill us with love and gentleness, to make us into the image and body of Christ. Quite literally, God is just dying to save us!

Each day God waits for us with patient passion for the moments when we are able to accept the life of grace, of transformation into the body of Christ. And this is the great miracle of the Eucharist! In faith we become what we receive; when the Eucharistic minister says “body of Christ” to each of us, they are calling us by our true name!

And this is how we become, in the words of the prophet, “a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord,” and the very “delight” of God.

Today Jesus begins his public ministry at the request of his mother. Now much ink has been spilled interpreting and apologizing for the brusqueness of Jesus’ response, when he calls her “Woman.” But recall the next time Jesus addresses his mother as “woman,” according to John the Evangelist, at the other end of his public ministry. From the Cross Jesus says, “Woman, behold your son,” and gives Mary to the beloved disciple as his new mother.

And from that moment on, Mary is the mother of every disciple of the Lord right down to us. So let us hope in and pray to our mother, that she will help us to accept the grace of transformation in Christ, that the stone jars of our own hearts will come to be filled with the good wine of gentleness and compassion. Amen.


Haise said...

Thanks for the recent comments on my blog. I took a break there for about a month, so it's good to know some people are still reading. :)

It seems that Jesus calling His mother "Woman" makes perfect sense in the context of her role as the New Eve. Baffling how so much ink is spilled over something that seems pretty simple. For all we know, Jesus never literally called His mother, "Woman," but Luke may have added that for its theological importance.

What do you think it means that Jesus' glory was revealed by this miracle? It's not like His glory was revealed all at once (we are still looking forward to Christ's full revelation in glory) and this particular miracle wasn't the beginning of His revelation (I'd say that was the Anunciation, at least within the NT). Did any of the Church Fathers or other Doctors ever expound on the correlation between the Mosaic Law being the good wine served first while Christ, the better wine, God saved until later?

Haise said...

I'm on a different computer and used the wrong account to login. This is Jason from Richest Man in Assisi, also known to some of my high school friends as "haise," which was their abbreviated translation of Jason into Spanish.

Charles of New Haven said...

Jason, take a look at Augustine's Tractates on John, (Tractatus in Iohannem) either 10 or 11 is I think the Cana episode. Not only does he make the point you make about the new and old wine, and how out of the old water of the ceremonial purifications comes the new wine of the Christ, but he goes on and on about the six jars and the six ages of the world. Check it out, online or the library.

Jason said...

Awesome... "Confessions" is all I've read by Augustine, and it's taking me a while since I tend to read books in spurts, taking month-long breaks in between. I think C.S. Lewis included the same example of rain turning into grapes and then wine in "Miracles." If not, he used similar examples to show how God is always working miracles through the course of time, but sometimes they occur instantaneously.