Showing Small Mercies

Showing Small Mercies

January 17, 2016 | N W | Baptism, Discipleship, Eucharist, Generosity, Grace, Guest Celebrants, Mercy, Mission, Ordinary Time, Service, St. John

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 17, 2016 – Year C
Readings: Is 62:1-5 / Ps 96 / 1 Cor 12:4-11 / Jn 2:1-11
by Rev. David Hyman, Guest Celebrant

Today’s gospel is the story of Jesus’ first miracle of changing water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana.  This story was depicted on Facebook recently with a picture of a store window.  At the top of the window was the word “WATER” and below it was displayed a row of wine bottles.  Below the wine were the words, “JESUS WAS HERE”.

I like to begin my homily with a commentary like this as a springboard to the real story.  I want to share some of the points of this story I find interesting and important.

As you know, according to St. John’s gospel, this event happened three days after the baptism of Jesus.  Of course the disciples and Mary were there as well.  Although Mary is never mentioned by name – she is simply called the mother of Jesus – she has an important role.  She approaches Jesus to tell him of the problem.  She simply states: “They have no wine.”  She doesn’t tell Jesus what to do but implies that he can do something about this problem.  She also instructs the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them.  When Jesus changes the water into wine he uses large casks. An estimate of the quantity held by these casks is two hundred gallons.  This is way more than will be needed.

If you are an Israeli at this time and you are looking for a Messiah, would you look in a small town like Cana, at a wedding feast where someone has miscalculated how much wine to provide?  Yet God chose this exact place and time, what might be called an insignificant situation, to begin His initiative.  What this tells us is that God cares.  He cares about all of our situations, even the seeming insignificant problems.  This is the first message I want to share, that God cares about all aspects of this world.

Second, keep in mind that St. John writes around the year 100 when Gnosticism was being promoted.  Gnosticism states that the things of this world are evil and should be avoided – including sex, wine, red meat, etc.  John uses this story to remind us that God finds all parts of His creation good.  Despite the fact that evil exists in the world, the Lord has lived and died and redeemed us to restore the world to goodness and blessedness.  Message two is that the world and all it contains are good.

The multiplication of water into wine in such abundance indicates that the time of fulfillment is here. The end times are here. God has come. We are gifted in ways that the Old Testament people were not. It is a time of superabundance.  This is message three.

Additionally, there is the symbolism of baptism and the Eucharist.  Changing water into wine: the water reminds of our baptism, the wine reminds us of the Eucharist.  All of these points are hidden within this story and tell us so much more about God and Jesus than what appears at first glance.

So what should we take from this?  What is it that God wants to teach us?  One thing I believe we should learn is:  Do not give up on this world.  Certainly when I look around there is plenty of discouragement; people are unsettled and unhappy.  Everywhere there is evil and violence and frustration.  People are frightened and don’t know what to do about all of it.  When we become frightened we tend to withdraw instead of following Jesus.

And yet, Jesus reminds us what we can do.  He invites us to engage the world and not give up.   St. Paul tells us in the second reading that we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit with the spiritual gifts we need to accomplish what we need to do.   Jesus shows us how to make a difference.  He started and stayed small.  He did not travel beyond where he could go by foot.   In the same way, we should think small, should work on a small scale, knowing that our efforts are blessed by God.  You are I are part of God’s agenda to make Jesus present; we were baptized into this.  Individually we may not accomplish great things, but all our efforts together will make a difference.

Additionally, it is an invitation to step away from cynicism.  A great example of this comes from Kate Braestrup of Maine.  She says she has moved beyond cynicism.  Even though people generally become more cynical as they get older, she says the opposite has occurred for her.  She says: “It was easier to be cynical about men before I married one and had sons.  It was easier to be cynical about American race relations before my brother adopted my darling African American nephew.  It was easier to be cynical about crime and punishment before I worked with cops.  It was easier to be cynical about the future before I had a grandson on his way into it.”  Being cynical seems to indicate a loss of hope.  We should be a people of hope.

Fred Rogers, the famous TV personality, was often frightened as a child.  Whenever tragedy struck and caused him great concern and anxiety, his mother would always tell him to “look to the helpers.”  As he did this, he realized he could focus on those doing something to resolve the tragedy and he became less frightened.  He realized that because people are pitching in to make a difference, the world can go on despite tragedy.

Pope Francis has been a great role model in this area.   He has shown us how to engage the world and bring Jesus into the world, inviting us to return to God by both his words and by his actions.  He always provides us with concrete examples of how to bring Jesus to the world.  Watching how he lives each day shows us how we should live.  He reminds us that we must take care of one another.  In this year of mercy, Pope Francis has explained how mercy fits into this idea of bringing Jesus to the world.  The Church is a mother and must go out with mercy and care for those who are hurting. He says that if God never tires of being merciful, we can do no less.

Mary said to Jesus:  You can do something about this and so can we.  It doesn’t have to be a big deal; we just need to do what we can.  In closing, I want to quote Martin Luther King, Jr. whose memory we honor on January 18th.  He said, “I just want to be there in love and in justice and in truth and in commitment to others so that we can make of this old world a new world”.  You and I are called to do our part to make of this old world a new world.

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