2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – January 16, 2022
A priest is driving down to Toronto to see a show and he’s stopped in Muskoka for speeding. The police office smells alcohol on his breath, sees an empty wine bottle on the floor, and asks, “Sir, have you been drinking?”
The priest replies, “Just water.”
The officer asks, “Then why do I smell wine?”
The priest looks down at the bottle and exclaims, “Good Lord, he’s done it again!”
I’ll bet Mary would have loved to tell that joke to others, since she’s the first to notice that the wine has run out at the wedding reception! Back then, weddings lasted for five to six days and were full of singing and dancing, playing music and games, eating delicious food, and drinking many glasses of wine. So not having enough wine left, so early in the wedding celebration, was a major problem. And so, Mary turns to her Son to fix the problem, who needs a little convincing.
This hesitancy of Jesus can be explained by remembering that a wedding banquet often was associated with prophetic images of the time when God would send the Messiah to fulfill his promises to his chosen people and usher in the long-awaited, and much-anticipated Kingdom of God. So Jesus’ hesitancy concerning the wine problem was meant to convey to his mother, that her unspoken hope that the Kingdom of God would appear in a swift manner was, perhaps, not on the same timetable as God’s. Hearing his response, Mary then says to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
And that nudge is all that Jesus needs. He’s not the father of the bride or the groom.
—Just a wedding guest, but one who decides, at the prompting of his mother, to use the strong symbolism of the wedding wine to demonstrate his divine nature to everyone and, in the process, to reveal the overflowing and super-abundant generosity of God to all.
By turning water into wine, Jesus reveals that just as the wine he creates is the best, so a life lived in the Kingdom is better than any life we could ever imagine on our own.
—Which leads us to the following points for reflection: Why do we tend to wait until we’ve tried everything else to fix our problems before we turn to the Lord? Why do we wait unit our “wine” runs out, our problems become too large, our frustration too immense, our stress levels too high, before we turn to God in our need? Why do we think that God won’t understand or that he just won’t have a desire to help with our life problems? Why do we think that we have to go it alone without the support of a Christian community or a life of prayer?
Perhaps the answer to these questions are symptomatic of our individualism or pride. Maybe we think that asking for help says that we’re weak or ungifted. Or maybe we misjudge the skill sets we have and don’t really have what it takes to arrive at a solution, on our own. Maybe, instead of Jesus, we think that we’re the real miracle worker here. and that God should sit down and watch us in action. Or maybe we just don’t think that God can do anything that will surprise us anymore. Perhaps, when all is said and done, we just don’t’ think Jesus can turn water into wine and save our particular situation or our lives, for that matter, from turning into a complete and utter disaster.
I’m sure many of us have thought that way from time to time. Especially in our culture, it’s hard to give up control to God and to let him call the shots. Sometimes too, it’s hard to walk into an unknown future, with only a scriptural assurance that God has a plan for our lives, without fully knowing what that plan is, from the get-go. Perhaps, it’s hard to identify ourselves with the characters in the stories of the scriptures and to be amazed that Jesus can and wants to do the same for us. Maybe it’s just hard for us to imagine that God has an ace in his hand, that he’s just waiting to play at the right time, if we’ll just let him!
To overcome these culturally-conditioned dispositions, we need to radically turn to Jesus who’s ever-ready to give us the discernment skills we need, to know what God is willing to do to assist us and what part God would like to have us play, in achieving the desired outcome. It’s not just God that has to act. God wants to be partners with us in doing what it is we’re asking of him. We see, in our gospel story today, that Jesus directs the servers to fill the stone water jars with water and then to draw some out. Notice that, in order for Jesus to turn the water into wine, they had to do as he had asked, first! But once they agree to follow Jesus’ request, Jesus is able to miraculously transformation the water into wine!
That’s one of the reasons we’re gifted by God with various skills and talents. As we heard in our second reading today, “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” (1 Cor 12:4-6) It’s God who activates the gifts and talents we’ve been given to advance his Kingdom! Are we open to receiving those gifts? Do we recognize the gifts we’ve been given? Are we willing to be generous in offering our gifts to God, in order to transform this world in which we live, into the Kingdom of God?
Mary would ask us, “Are we willing to do whatever Jesus tells us?” Indeed, Mary would hope that our answer is ‘yes!’ She’d hope that we’d also be willing to be “other-Christs” to those who have yet to come to know Jesus as the Messiah, and their Lord and Savior, by making his presence real in their lives by our actions on his behalf.
In concert with Jesus, we’re being nudged by Mary to turn water into wine, each and every day. We’re being challenged to turn the water of doubt into the wine of faith. We’re being challenged to turn the water of despair into the wine of hope. We’re being challenged to turn the water of enslavement to sin into the wine of forgiveness and healing.
We’re being challenged to turn the water of indifference and skepticism into the wine of zeal for the Good News and readiness for mission!
As radical disciples of Christ, then, we must witness that the Kingdom of God has begun in Jesus Christ! Such testimony challenges us to reach out to those still don’t know Christ, to give a reason for living to those who feel they have none, and to manifest the presence of the Spirit in our lives through self-surrender and generous self-giving to others. We’re impelled as Christ’s followers to guide the wanderer, to give rest to the weary, to ease the troubled in spirit and to comfort the restless of heart. When we witness to our faith in Christ in this way, we announce that the Kingdom has come! We testify that the best wine is now ready and available to all!
A few years ago, I was at ‘La Bella Vita Cucina’ restaurant in Sudbury, and overhead, there was a sign written in Italian which said, “Water is for frogs, Wine for people.” In a real way, that sign spoke volumes because it reminds us that our lives are intended for the wine of utter and total transformation into the persons God created us to be! Human beings aren’t meant to be complacent and left to live a mundane existence. No, we’re called to much more!
When we live as radical disciples of Christ, when we turn water into wine, with the help of Christ, on a daily basis, we celebrate and make anew, the relationship we’ve entered into with our saving God. Nowhere is this more evident than in our weekly celebration of Eucharist. Here, we recall that new and eternal covenant-relationship with Christ, in the bread and wine that we eat and drink, and which is transformed right before us, into Christ’s very Body and Blood. In this sacred meal, we become like that which we eat and drink and allow Christ to walk the face of the earth once more. May we ever seek to embody this radical transformation into Christ every day as we strive alongside Christ, to announce God’s kingdom has come!
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