The Savior has come, we have sung the songs, heard the poems and venerated the stories of Scripture. Now these next five and one half weeks of Ordinary Time before Ash Wednesday we are encouraged to receive the opportunities to live with all the gifts of these “holidays” materially, relationally, and spiritually.
We prepare these days for our Sabbath-Eucharist by reflecting gratefully on all the gifts we have received and the joys we have in sharing them and continuing their distribution. We do not usually have rare spices to offer back to God or to anybody else, but we can reflect on just how we can be a rare spice of life in the ordinary days to come.
Some wonderful words are spoken by the prophet about the city of Jerusalem, the location of the presence of God. These words are spoken as a boast of hope. Zion, Jerusalem, the very center of holiness has been occupied by foreigners, despoilers, the “Infidels”. Those who have loved Her are in exile and memories of Her grandeur are painful. She has been violated, and it seems that She has been abandoned and divorced by God. The land of Israel, so sacred as a major portion of God’s covenantal love has been “wedded” to an other.
This whole chapter is a poem in which the prophet stirs up the hopes and expectations of his hearers. New names, new images are proposed and promised. God is pictured as the “marrying-kind” and spousal names are given for the city of God’s favor. The prophet is saying that once it seemed like that, but behold, now this will be happening. Reversals are promised and the invitation is given to the people as well to begin reversing their own communal and individual names and images. What will be said of Jerusalem will be said of the people who will dwell there. Change from one image to a new image encourages the people to hope and trust as they experience their ordinariness.
There is an abundance of biblical images in today’s Gospel. The scene is a wedding feast. They run out of wine. The mother of Jesus informs Him of this fact. He questions her, but does what she asks. The water is changed into wine, everybody’s happier and Jesus has begun changing more than water into wine.
It would be helpful to read these verses with one eye and the first chapter of Genesis with the other. John’s version of his Gospel begins with the same words as the Book which begins the Bible. “In the beginning” begins the revelation process of God by which God desires to come close enough to us so as to allow our response of faith. This is how creation began and this is how Jesus continues and completes the revelation and creation.
Genesis begins with six “Let there be's”.There is “light”, “skies”, “water”, “vegetation-producing earth”, “living creatures”, “Humankind” all were created and God saw them all as “good”. John pictures Jesus as bending over the ordinary water, breathing over the jars which were six. This is intended by John and is not merely poetically convenient. Jesus has come into the world to bring about a change of image. He is the New Light, come into the world to transform the things of creation into the things of the Creator. As Light Jesus intends to dispel the dark. Humanity will be changed in its own self-concept from a mere part of creation to its being transformed into being embraced and “unabandonable”. The rest of creation is now “sacramental” and contains the fingerprints of God. Nothing is only what it appears, but there is now a presence to be received and reverenced. This is the work of Redemption” and now what was ordinary is now living and charged with the “wine” of new life. The new “wine” is much better tasting than the old.
This very Sunday is a special and extraordinary day in the Church. It is the ninety-third World-Day of praying for and being in solidarity with “Migrants and Refugees” of the world. Families and other groups of displaced persons, because of religious and political violence, and economic need are forced to leave their homes and search for new ways of living as the human family had been created to be.
They have become the abandoned, neglected, and deported, or exiled of our time. God continues to hover over them to change their image and ours of them. They sip the common water of wandering as they flee persecution and unhealthy conditions. The hovering spirit of God is inviting this world, through the Church, to welcome them into the new-wine and Light of Christ. Let there be light, life, growth and true human living. The ordinary ways of relating with the fleeing, the needy, the divorced, is changing. The marriage established by God between God and us in Christ, now makes us one family with the land of the earth still the sign of God’s covenantal love.
Jesus changed the water into wine. Jesus is working through us to change our images of ourselves as separate from and into a living union of sisters and brothers. The Holy Family was in flight from the terror of Herod. They were migrants and refugees long before the terms were unpopular. It does seem that those of us who are drinking the wine might be afraid it will run out or that some are just more worthy of the good wine than others.
Pope Benedict has transformed the water of the political into the wine of religion and spirituality. Nothing and no one person is meant to live in the dark of their being abandoned or excluded. In Christ, the ordinary has been transformed into the extraordinary. Everything is holy now.
“The Lord has prepared a feast for me given wine in plenty for me to drink.” Ps. 23, 5
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