20 January 2013. 2nd Sunday (of Year C).
Is 62:1-5. Jerusalem lay ruined, grieving like a lonely widow. Yet the prophet announces a future joyful feast for God and his people.
1 Cor 12:4-11. There are many different gifts among us, but they all come from God’s Spirit and should be used for the good of all.
Jn 2:1-11. Mary’s intervention at the marriage at Cana to save a young couple from embarrassment is a model of how to offer help.
Theme: Like Mary’s intervention at the marriage at Cana, we should help without being asked and without fuss or demand.
First Reading: Isaiah 62:1-5
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who aportions to each one individually as he wills.
Gospel: John 2:1-11
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now. Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
The First Miracle, born out of loving concern
St John’s gospel mentions Mary, the mother of Jesus two times: at the marriage feast at Cana, the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus and at the crucifixion, the end of it. That could be a way of telling us that Mary did not only play the passive role of being the physical mother of Jesus; that she was also actively involved with Jesus in the work of our redemption. In today’s gospel, we hear of the marriage feast at Cana. Mary, the mother of Jesus was invited, as well as Jesus himself and his disciples. As the wedding feast went on, the wine ran out. Mary went out of her way to intercede with Jesus and Jesus performed what John tells us was his first miracle.
If this was Jesus’ first miracle, how then did Mary know that Jesus could do it? Good mothers know their children. They know the hidden talents and gifts of their children. There are many young men and women who have gone on to accomplish great things in life because their mothers believed in them and encouraged them.
Other interesting questions arise from the story. Did Mary know all those thirty years that she was living with a wonder-working Jesus and yet never for one day did she ask him to multiply her bread, turn the water on the family table into wine, or double her money to make ends meet? How come she never asked Jesus to use his miraculous power to help her out but she was quick to ask him to use it and help others? Think of it. If you have a child who has a miraculous power to double money for other kids at school, won’t you ask him to double yours at home too? After all, one would argue, charity begins at home. But for Mary and for Jesus the needs of the other comes first.
Take the case of Jesus. He knew he had this power to perform miracles. After his forty days fast in the dessert he was hungry and the devil suggested it to him to turn some stones into bread and eat, but he did not do it. Yet he went out and multiplied bread for crowds of his followers to eat. What are they telling us, both Mary and Jesus? Mary and Jesus are telling us that God’s gifts to individuals are not meant primarily for their or their families’ benefit but for the service of others. That is what St Paul is telling us in the 2nd reading when he enumerates the many different gifts of the Holy Spirit to different persons and adds that “to each person is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good,” not for personal profit.
Today is a good day to ask: “What gifts has God given me? What am I good at? Am I using these gifts mainly for my own personal profit or for the service of others in the community?” We sometimes wonder why there are no more manifestations of the Holy Spirit like what we read in the Bible. Maybe the reason is that we have grown more selfish. If we began using the little gifts we have for the common good – like the gift of praying, singing, teaching, caring, sharing, encouraging, supporting, motivating, writing, etc. – then these gifts will probably begin to grow and soon we shall begin to see miracles. Concern for others is the beginning of miracles. We should make our own the famous prayer of St Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
Our Lady of the Elbow
(homily by Joseph Cassidy, retired archbishop of Tuam)
Today I want to make just one point. And it will take me five or six minutes to do it. The Scripture passage I’ve just read for you, the account of the miracle at Cana, occurs only in one of the Gospels – the Gospel of St John. There is no mention of it whatsoever in Matthew, Mark or Luke. Isn’t that strange? It must mean that John attached to this miracle a particular significance that escaped the other three.
What was that? Well, John was particularly close, not just to Jesus, but to Mary too. He was the representative, but he was also the individual to whom Mary was given at the foot of the cross. “This is your mother” (Jn 19:27). For a number of years after the Crucifixion, he was Mary’s adopted son. He saw at first hand the influence she exercised in the growth of the early Church and in the distribution of graces that contributed to that growth. Now John’s was the last of the Gospels. He was higher up the hill than the others and could get a longer view. He was able to put things in perspective that little bit better than the other three. With the benefit of greater hindsight and his privileged experience of Mary’s ascendancy, the more Cana receded into history, the more important it became. It was a single incident but it had a universal dimension. It underlined not just Mary’s temporary influence at Cana, but her permanent role in the economy of salvation. What she did that day, she does every day. The nudgese gave Our Lord has now become a habit. She has become an incurable nudger. Our Lady of the elbow. John included the miracle at Cana in his Gospel because it encapsulates so beautifully Mary’s continuing function as our helper and intercessor. “There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there” (Jn 2:1). There’s a wedding in Cana every day. And Mary is always there.
That’s the point I want you to take home with you, that there in heaven Mary continues to be our helper and intercessor. People sometimes wonder what they are all doing up there in heaven. “What in the name of God are they doing from one end of the day to the other? How do they pass the time?” I cannot give you a complete answer to that. But one thing I can tell you for certain. They are up there praying for us, willing us to be saved, coaxing us along the road that they themselves have taken. Foremost among the prayers, supreme among the intercessors, is Our Lord himself. That much is made clear in the letter to the Hebrews. There we’re told that Our Lord, “because he remains for ever, has a perpetual priesthood. It follows, then; that his power to save those who come to God through him is absolute, since he lives for ever to intercede for them” (Hebr 7:24-25). And gathered around Jesus in a chorus of intercession are your people and my people praying us forward and upward on our pilgrim way. But nextto our Divine Lord, and head and shoulders above the rest, is the Blessed Virgin Mary. As mother of God and mother of us, next to her Son and in union with her Son, she is the greatest intercessor of them all. As the one who co-operated most closely with Christ in the work of salvation, she is the one who is most passionately concerned that people should be saved. When Mary went up to heaven, she didn’t leave behind her motherly role. She didn’t pull the ladder up after her. Once a mother, always a mother. The woman of Cana has changed her location but not her occupation. I suppose I could sum it all up in one sentence and say that when Mary went up to heaven she took her elbow with her. Mary was assumed into heaven, elbow and all!
They Have No Wine
(A homily from Liam Swords)
In the Middle Ages, there was an organised group of Irish Benedictines, called the Schottenkloster, who established monasteries in Europe, extending from Germany to Kiev in the Ukraine. Some traces of their foundation still survive, particularly in Germany. There is a memorial plaque to one of them, St Makarius, in the Mariankirche in Würzburg. He was the founder of the Irish monastery in that city. It is recorded that on the day that his monastery was officially dedicated, he performed a miracle. Lest his young Irish novices be overcome by the grandeur of that occasion, he turned the wine into water. A most un-Irish miracle and, arguably, an unchristian one too. It was the reverse of the Cana miracle in more senses than one. He devalued the wine and diminished the festivities.
The miracle at Cana as recorded by John in today’s gospel, has some surprising details, worth reflecting on. Mary seemed to be the first to notice that the wine had run out. Certainly, the person in charge, the steward, was not aware of it, nor it seems was the bride and groom. That it should happen at all indicates that the newly-weds were not well off. It was the sort of happening that could have caused them enormous embarrassment, and ruined what should have been the happiest day of – – their lives. Weddings, then as now, were events of enormous social importance. It is one of those rare occasions when families put themselves in the public arena to be judged by their peers. Even families who can ill-afford it will splash out for a daughter’s wedding. Failure to measure up here might mean that they could never hold their heads high again among their neighbours. Cana was a small, close community. “Remember the day the wine ran out at so-and-so’s wedding’, would be duly entered in the annals. Mary was wellaware how much was at stake. She approached the only one present whom she knew could do something about it, her son, Jesus. Yet, Jesus had never performed a miracle and there must have been umpteen times when that little family in Nazareth could have done with one. Whenever one was needed there, it was Mary who had performed it. Now, when a neighbour’s child was in need, it was up to him. “They have no wine,” she said. No fuss. No histrionics. What followed largely explains why Catholics have always had this extraordinary devotion to Mary. How many husbands have said to their wives, how many Sons have said to their mothers, what Jesus said to Mary? “Why ask me? What can I do?” Mary knew, as countless wives and mothers know, they will not be refused. “Do whatever he tells you,” she instructed the servants. If the story was leaked, and it must have been leaked – otherwise it would not be read today – it was not Mary who leaked it. Probably it was the servants. “Only the servants who had drawn the water knew.” Nbody else knew, not the steward, and mercifully not the bride and groom and their families. And that above all accounts for the charm of this miracle.
It is a marvellous model as to how we should act, when helping others. We should be sensitive enough to anticipate their needs. We should help them without their ever knowing, being scrupulously careful to avoid putting them under obligation to us. And whatever we do, we should never mention it to anyone. Most people who need help don’t want other people’s charity, and those who most need it are the least likely to ask for it.