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Contents: Volume 2 - The Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
January 20, 2019


 

The 2nd

SUNDAY

of

2019

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

 

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1.

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Sun. 2 C

The last line of this Sunday's Gospel reading from John about Jesus's miracle at the Wedding Feast at Cana tells us "and his disciples began to believe in him." Their belief came after witnessing something extraordinary. This miracle was the first of so very many wondrous things that Jesus did, things that caused others to believe.

As Jesus' followers of today, we are called to "do whatever he tells you", the same command as what Mother Mary said to the servers. We are to be instruments that allow Jesus to work through us and perform miracles in the present age. That is our Baptismal command.

In today's age as in ages past, Jesus again chooses the miracle while we choose to follow him or not. I am sure that Jesus still performs incredible miracles that would pass the scrutiny of a "miracle test" such as curing an incurable cancer. I am also sure that through people like you and me, there are other less visible or astounding miracles that occur that are still wondrous.

Have you witnessed someone taking a person who is homeless to the local fast food place for a meal? Have you witnesses a friend sitting with someone as they wait for the outcome of a hospital procedure for a loved one? Have you ever seen someone "pay it forward" ?

Have you ever listened for a very long time to a distressed child then see him or her smile at the end of your time together? Have you joined others at work or through your church to help a family in need? Have you given up your time to help someone, anyone, in a way that was unexpected?

To me, these are today's miracles, the doing what Jesus tells us to do, the things that cause others to "believe"! My local newspaper, the Seattle Times, has a section in its daily paper called Rant and Rave. I never read the rant entries but I always read the rave ones! The brief anecdotes told there confirm that Jesus still works among us. They give me hope in a world where so many people look the other way rather than "do what he tells you." They also give me ideas of opportunities that might come my way. RAVE along with HELP and LOVE are great four letter words for this time and every place and for everyone to show the right way to OBEY this command to follow Jesus.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Second Sunday of Ordered Time January 20, 2019

Isaiah 62:1-5; Responsorial Psalm 96; 1st Corinthians 12:4-11; Gospel Acclamation 2nd Thessalonians 2:14; John 2:1-11

We’re reading from Isaiah again this second Sunday of Ordered Time. This reading, taken from the third segment of Isaiah, encourages the people beaten down by their enslavement in Babylon. Their suffering and loss of freedom leads to a new condition for these Chosen by God. God calls them by a new name. No more shall they be the "forsaken ones", the ones isolated, the ones in despair and desolation. Now they shall be named the delight of the Lord. God is so taken with these people that he shall delight in them as a bridegroom delights in his bride. The relationship between the Lord and his people is like a groom to his bride. This wedding theme is common in the Hebrew Scriptures. This is a theme of many prophets who describe the nation when it falls into idolatry as an adulterous harlot soiling herself at the hands of any who come by.

We can apply this thought to ourselves. Are we easily distracted from faith in our Lord by the siren songs of the world? Does power expressing itself in violence seduce us? Does any voice shouting and promising power, wealth or glory make us a rabble easily manipulated by hatred and scapegoating? Does the glitter of wealth and the comfort and pleasure it promises overthrow the joys and delight of family meals and excursions? Does the glory of recognition by crowds, by work or social or ecclesial communities entice us, robbing our families of our time and attention?

Marriage is a powerful image describing relationships between two persons in love. Such an image applied to our relationship with God makes our relationship with God a matter of love and respect. This is no fearful, groveling, slavery! This is looking at the Lord as a loving marriage partner, a lover looking for ways to express his love. This is much more than the fearful compliance to a tyrant’s will. If we’ve ever been in love we are able to relate to Isaiah this Sunday. God is in love with us – not only through an institutional church, but directly with each of us. In a great marriage there is nothing of fear and trembling. In magnificent marriages conversation is both spoken and unspoken. In our relationship with God, conversation is essential – both spoken and unspoken. That relationship is one of action and quiet, of spoken words and silent appreciation, of concern and of thankfulness.

This second Sunday of ordered time is a starting point at which we can begin again to work on our attitude toward God. We should begin again to think of God as our groom, our husband, our lover. Our experience of human love is a great help in growing our relationship with our Creator. For most of us, this will require that we repent of our image of God as the cruel task-master. This lover is not one who spies on us to catch us sinning. This God never looks for reasons to condemn us. This is the time to repent of our relationships with others so that we no longer look for faults in others. So often we condemn others so that we feel superior: we search out even the smallest fault so that we can justify our hatred, our violence, and our theft of their dignity and worth.

The second reading this Sunday is from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul was very taken with these people who lived in and around a city that served as an important seaport. It was a city of great wealth derived from shipping and commerce. The rich were very rich. And the poor were very poor. Yet the community of Christian disciples was vibrant and growing exponentially. But as in all human relationships there was conflict. – between the rich and the poor, among those whose goal was power and prestige, of various factions that separated and created dissention. It is to this community that Paul wrote that wonderful letter about what love is. This first letter to the Corinthians is often used in marriage ceremonies. It begins, "Love is gentle , love is kind, love seeks no fault." In this letter Paul warns us not to approach the table of the Lord with hatred in our hearts for any other in our community. He warns that to do so is to receive the One Body of the Lord to our own destruction. It is love which overcomes hatred. It is love that rejects violence. It is love that makes us whole personally and communally.

Even though this is the liturgical year of the gospel of Luke, the Church gives us a reading this Sunday from the gospel of John. John’s gospel is the last to be written. It does not present the Christ in an historical sense but in a sense of faith. This Sunday’s gospel is about a wedding feast. But strangely enough, there is no mention of the bride or the groom. The main characters are Mary, Jesus’ mother, Jesus, a couple of servants, a master of ceremonies, and the groom. John assumes Jesus has a following of disciples. Jesus is invited to the wedding feast along with his disciples. Perhaps the groom had no idea of just how many extra persons would be attending this eight day feast. In any case there are more people than there are reserves of wine. Wine warms the cockles of the heart. Wine adds life to banquets and encourages persons to let go of their anger, their fears, and their dislike for others.

The stone water jars contained water guests could use to wash off the dirt and filth of the road from their hands, faces, and their feet that walked streets and trails strewn with the filth of animals and dust raised by paw, hoof, and foot. These were not decorated jars: these were not storage tanks for fresh water for drinking or cooking: these were not the jugs used to collect the pressings of olives. Those jars were indicating that the guests had arrived and washed. The interaction between Mary and Jesus is interesting. Perhaps Mary was a bit miffed that Jesus brought along his disciples, causing embarrassment to the groom. So Mary’s statement to Jesus, "They have no wine" shows Mary concerned and asks Jesus to do something about it. Jesus’ answer, "What’s that to me? My time has not yet come" seems a bit snappy. Yet Mary knows her son and knows he will respond to the need. The servants are instructed to refill with water jars with plain water and take a sample to the steward. The steward is surprised at the wonderful quality of the wine. This is no bottom of the barrel wine, clouded with sediment, bitter from contact with wineskins or barrels. This is great drink. The steward cannot understand why the groom reserved this great wine for last. When the tastes of the guests have been dulled by wine, it would be time to bring on lesser wine.

John tells us this is the first sign Jesus worked as he began his ministry. Why does John choose this miracle as the first? Is it an important part of the story or just a statement of fact? This first sign is a marker: an indication of what is to come: this sign gives meaning and purpose to the life and work of Jesus who will be the Christ, the Messiah, when he is raised from the tomb in a new life, as the first born of a new creation. Here is the point of John’s gospel. Here hides the meaning of Jesus’ miracles, of his preaching, of his healing, of his release of those held captive by evil spirits, by addictions. Life is changed! Life is richer! Life is more complete!

The best scene in John’s understanding of this newness is a wedding feast. Clearly in John’s writings, God is love. What better way to set the scene for Jesus’ ministry than a wedding feast at which the groom is God and the guests are all disciples, all friends of the groom whether disciples or not. What better way to describe those who labor for these guests than to make them servants who do the little things, who labor for the groom without pretense or arrogance. What better way for John to begin the story of the Christian Community’s faith than to describe it in terms of a wedding feast.

What is ordinary becomes extraordinary and unexpected. Is that not the case with the Creator God, the God who saves us, the God who became one of us? Come to the feast! Drink deeply of the wine that once was ordinary water. See in this first of Jesus’ signs what it means to have a lover’s relationship with God. God loves us: he uses what is ordinary to wash us when we enter his house. That house is a place of warmth, of friendship, of shelter, of protection. It is the house where we belong. God uses what is ordinary to lift us up and enliven us. What is ordinary, what is part of our daily grind is in fact the wine that lifts our hearts to a new place, a place in which we are sheltered in God’s love for us. This is not about some strict adherence to rules – this is more, much more. The Hebrew laws about washing are elevated to new meaning and purpose. True we enter a house with walls that confine us and guide by halls, rooms, and facilities. But it is a place that is filled with warmth. It is where we find nourishment and drink at the banquet that is a forever banquet of a wedding feast. It is where God and man come together as lovers.

Those who live their marriages, their vows to each other, know and understand that without love there is no growth or joy. That is our purpose for coming together in assembly. It is so we can celebrate, so we heal of what harmed us, so we gain strength from food and wine. It is so that our lives outside the groom’s home will be filled with dignity, worth, purpose, and meaning. It is where we are connected always to the groom with love and appreciation for the wonder we are and for the greatest of gifts – the gift of life itself. This is the beginning of our ordinary time liturgical life. This is a new start. Let us embrace it and join in the feast of heaven and earth.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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THE WEDDING AT CANA: 2ND SUNDAY C

Children are still learning such nursery rhymes as Baa Baa Black Sheep, Humpty Dumpty, Ring a Ring of Roses, Oranges and Lemons, and Mary. Mary, Quite Contrary. But what they originally meant is different from what they seem to mean today. They were symbols and code language for what people were there and then experiencing. So too St John’s story of Jesus changing water into wine at a wedding is brim-full of symbolic meanings, meanings beyond the bare facts. Its overall meaning is summed up in the last sentence of the story: ‘This was the first of the signs given by Jesus ... He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him’ (v.11). Having been shown as Son of God and Savior of the world to the wise men at Bethlehem, and to his own people at his baptism, now on this third occasion at Cana in Galilee his greatness is displayed to his first followers.

In telling the story, we need to include John’s first four words of introduction. The gospel writer says: ‘ON THE THIRD DAY, there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee.’ In the Bible big things, great things happen on the third day, and above all the resurrection of Jesus. So at the beginning of his gospel, John is anticipating its climax.

John’s next words ‘THERE WAS A WEDDING’ stir up rich associations. In both Judaism and early Christianity marriage was a rich metaphor to speak of the union between God and the people of Israel (as stressed in our First Reading today), to highlight the union between God and an individual, and the union between Jesus and the Church community as his bride. To this day religious Sisters wear a silver ring to show their spiritual marriage to Jesus as their beloved bridegroom - the love of their lives.

Moreover, in peasant life at the time of Jesus, weddings were an exciting break, a reprieve from what has been labeled ‘the terrible everyday’. Life was tough for peasants, and their daily diet was basic and meager. It seldom included meat or poultry, which required killing one of their few animals. But a wedding worked like magic. It brought rest for a whole week from hard relentless labor, and enjoyment of abundant amounts of food and drink, along with music and dancing. These associations help us identify the point John is implying. The whole true story of Jesus is a wedding, a wedding at which the wine never runs out, and at which the best wine is kept till last. Moreover wherever Jesus goes, including so often to meals, the joy breaks out. He’s experienced as source of ‘good news’, as the good news of God’s lavish, gracious, and everlasting love. So his presence is a cause of joy. On this occasion the production by Jesus of so much new wine (no less than 120 gallons) of outstanding quality represents the abundance of God’s gifts, which the prophets promised would accompany the arrival of the Messiah, the Savior (cf. Amos 9:13; Hos 2:24; Joel 3:18; Is 25:6).

It’s significant too that at this manifestation of his glory and greatness, ‘the mother of Jesus was there’ (v.1.), just as she will be there again at the cross (Jn 19:25). In John’s understanding Jesus is glorified on that cross, and the marriage union between God and his people is revived. In both places, on both occasions, Mary is there as the new Eve, the woman described in the Book of Genesis as ‘the mother of all that live’ (3:20). Here at Cana, when ‘the wine provided for the wedding was all finished’ (v.3) she feels a mother’s compassion for the embarrassed bride and groom. Even when her son is slow to act, Mary’s strong faith and trust do not waver that he can and will fix things. So she says quietly to the waiters: ‘Do whatever he tells you’ (v.5).

In telling us his story of the wedding at Cana in Galilee, what’s the main point that John our story-teller is making? I suggest that if and when we accept the invitation of Jesus to let him become our friend, our best friend always at our side, our life changes. It’s like water being turned into wine. Without Jesus life tends to be dull, stale, flat and insipid – never fulfilled. But with Jesus life becomes colorful, sparkling and exciting, even an exhilarating adventure. That’s what St Paul keeps experiencing, even in situations of difficulty, opposition, and struggle. ‘The life I now live in the flesh,’ he insists, ‘I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Gal 2:20).

Australian Jesuit theologian, Gerald O’Collins, has written about friendship with Jesus in a particularly eloquent and appealing way:

The truth is that we all have hungry hearts. We want to escape from all that is deadly, and find a life that is fuller and more satisfying. My faith and my personal experience tell me where to look. Look for Jesus. Welcome Jesus and you will be welcoming someone who gives us real life, the fullness of life. He is the Life-giver, the supreme Life-giver. …If we open our arms to Jesus and let him into our little world, we will live life, the only life that truly fills our hearts and will continue forever. Modern advertising can offer products that provide passing relief for our hungry hearts, and make life for a time a little bit sweeter and richer. But those products can never fully satisfy our hungry hearts. Only Jesus can do that. …Real life does not come by taking it for ourselves, but by receiving it from Jesus and sharing it with others. Only Jesus is the supreme Life-giver, the utterly satisfying Life-giver, who offers us life, now and forever. So, live life! Welcome Jesus! (Jesus: A Portrait, p.75).

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John


 

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