Monday, 18 January 2010

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Today’s Gospel completes a series of the epiphanies of God’s glory beginning with the birth of Christ at Bethlehem, followed by the visit of the Magi from the East, and right after the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan, we witness the first miracle which launches Christ’s public ministry. What can we say about the glory of Christ changing water into wine?

Firstly, there is a sense of progression. In the preceding 3 epiphanies, the angels broadcasted the birth of the Messiah to the Shepherds in the hills, the Magi announced His birth to the waiting world and at the baptism in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit testified to Christ Himself. But, at Cana, the glory of Christ is manifested by none other than Himself. Secondly, we encounter a promise fulfilled. In the 1st Reading, we hear a message of hope. God has not forgotten his spouse Jerusalem. There is a promise that after the Exile, God and His people will be like newlyweds again. “Like a young man marrying a virgin, so will the one who built you wed you”. This promise is fulfilled at Cana. The wine of the Old Law has run out and when water was transformed into wine, we witness the start of the new dispensation. The six jars of water for ceremonial ablution have become the waters of baptism and forgiveness. Thirdly, further ahead, we will witness even more. Later, at the Last Supper, wine will be changed into blood which is a symbol of the Eucharist.

Thus, there is progress in the Lord. But, more than progress, promise and fulfilment, we see how the relationship between God and Man is brought to a higher level. It starts with Mary. John’s Gospel presents a Mary of divine purpose. Christ, in calling Mary “Woman”, harkened back to Genesis as He recognised His mother to be the new Eve: the new mother of the living. This recognition was confirmed when at the foot of the Cross, the Son gave us to His mother as He commanded, “Woman this is your son”. Mary inaugurated the reign of Christ which He accomplished at Calvary by making Mary the mother of all creation made new by His obedience to the Father.

Thus, the changing of water into wine is more than merely a miracle. It has implications on how we are to understand deeper and conceive better the mystery of the Church and what it means to live the 2nd Reading.

Firstly, the mystery of the Church is the mystery of the relationship between God and Man. How is this so? This relationship between God and Man can be described in various ways and one of them is through marriage. The Church is called the Bride of Christ as the theme today “the Church’s Bridegroom” is a reference to Christ. In this divine union, the Bride is forever faithful to the Bridegroom. Therefore, the Church must be ever attentive to the voice of the Bridegroom.

Secondly, this is how the 2nd Reading is to be lived out. At times, the Church (who is the Bride) is also called the Body of Christ. It is in this context that there are many gifts given to the Body in order for the Body to function more effectively. “There are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord”. All gifts are given so that the Body can obey the Head and the Bride can be attentive to Her Bridegroom.

Thirdly, if we return to the specifics of the Gospel, 6 stone jars mean literally 600 litres or bottles of wine; enough to send a hamlet to the moon. The public ministry of Christ is inaugurated through this overwhelming gesture of generosity on the part of God. It shows that God’s giving is never miserly. This gives us a way to look at our gifts and talents in relationship to one another. If the Church is poor, and here poverty is not measured monetarily, and if the community does not prosper, and here prosperity is not measured materially, it just means that we have not honoured God the best way we could, considering all we have is given by Him.

We are simply challenged because our sense of ownership is highly “individualised”. This partly explains the deterioration in the standard of public utilities. We may excuse the fact that it is “Malaysian” [1st-world infrastructure with 3rd-world mentality] but it goes deeper because the general trend throughout the world is a breaking down of “public” services and spaces. Why? Because, in a highly “individualised world”, we are accustomed to think that my gifts are mine. It may also explain why religious life is not attractive because religious life is premised on the assumption that one’s gifts and talents are received for the good of the whole.

Finally, given the context of the readings today is marriage, perhaps it is time for those who are married to think of their relationship not for themselves but for the community. Maybe as we enter 2010 and march toward the Jubilee Year 2011, it is time for married couples to renew their relationship. If your marriage is good, do not take it for granted. Make it better. For those whose marriage is in difficulties, when the wine of novelty and excitement run out, do not give up hope but seek necessary help. For those whose marriages have broken down irretrievably and they find themselves in the unenviable situation of separation or divorce, look for healing and forgiveness. To those who are in irregular relationships like a marriage outside Church or in a second marriage, try to rectify your situation. And finally, those who are getting married should take pains to prepare themselves for the sacrament which they will receive. It means conducting themselves in a manner which is chaste bearing in mind that the question asked at their wedding has to be answered in the “present” and not in the “past”. The question “Do you take N. to be your husband or wife” has to be answered with “I do” and not “I did”.

All these scenarios do not say that people cannot make mistakes. They are just reminders to us that mistakes do not define us but instead we learn from them. Marriage is necessary for the well-being of the community, namely the Church, because marital relationship is the most appropriate mirror of God’s undying love for us all and Christ faithfulness to the Church. The wealth of the Church is not to be found in gold. The wealth of the Church is you married couples. Your faithful love for each other is the joy of Holy Mother, the Church. In the past, we held in high esteem both religious and priestly life. That was possible only because the vitality of priestly and religious life was dependent on healthy family life.

Cana shows that God is abundantly generous and He gives us good things for the good of His Church. Let us be more responsive to His generosity.