07 January 2012

Above all, holiness. . .

Christmas Weekday (S)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

Listen Here (8.30 Mass)

Jesus and his mother mingle with the wedding guests. Near the end of the party, Mary reports to Jesus that the good wine has run out, “They have no wine,” she says. Jesus, being the good son, says, “Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not yet come.” Now, you can just see the look on Mary’s face. That look mothers get when a son gets a sassy mouth. No doubt she pinched her lips just a bit, took a deep breath, maybe rolled her eyes, and said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus proceeds to change six stone jars of water into high quality wine. John writes: “This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee.” To mark his entry into a public ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing, our Lord chooses a wedding feast, the party after the formal liturgy to claim his divine Sonship. Why a wedding feast? Of all the opportunities to announce his public ministry, why does he jump at this chance to reveal himself? Well, Mary is pushing him to “do something.” There's a crowd with people from all over town. Everyone is in a celebratory mood. All true. But don't overlook the obvious answer: the wedding guests needed wine! The Lord provides, and he provides more than bare necessities.

Let's examine what Jesus does when he changes water to wine. What happens? Yes, he changes water to wine. Yes, he obeys his mother. Yes, he reveals his power. And he does all this in order to announce the start of his public ministry. More importantly, he stakes a claim to his divine Sonship by changing that which we need simply to live into that which we need to live well. He shows the wedding guests and all of us that he comes to change survival into celebration, changes “just getting by” into thriving on God's abundance. In the next three years, Jesus transforms the Law of stone into the Law of love; he transforms the sacrifices of the temple into the one sacrifice of the cross; he transforms suffering and death into joy and everlasting life. The Wedding at Cana is transform from just another nuptial celebration into the unique sign of Christ's Sonship and serves as the beginning of his wedded life to the church! The physical miracle of water changing into wine is also a sacramental sign, evidence of God's grace working in the world to seduce us and draw us into the life of the Spirit, a life of holiness.

If we take the miracle at the wedding feast of Cana as a sign that God wants us to celebrate and thrive and not just get by and survive, we come closer to understanding the nature of the Church as Bride. Where do we find the bond of love and self-sacrifice? Where do we find the clearest declaration of God's intention to bring us back to Him? Where do we go to receive His blessings and to give Him thanks and praise? The one Body, the Church, His Bride. We find all these—love, self-sacrifice, blessing—we find them all here. . .among brothers and sisters, among the worst and least of God's children, among the best and greatest of His saints. Jesus doesn't reveal himself as the divine Son to a clique, or a secret society; nor does he hoard his power and dole it out sparingly. He spends it. . .extravagantly, at a party. He creates a luxury and helps the guests enjoy God's abundance. Think of Mary Magdalen and the expensive perfume oil she pours out on Jesus' feet. Think of the 5,000 who feast on a few fish and a few loaves of bread. Think of the hundred-fold harvest reaped from a single seed. Think of the Cross and the expense of your redemption, Christ's blood poured out. For his Bride, the Bridegroom desires joy, peace, prosperity. And above all, holiness.

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