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REFLECTIONS

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT

After 15 years as founder and director of the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio, Virgilio Elizondo  went on to be pastor of San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio (I think the oldest cathedral in the U.S.)  He says:  "As one parishioner told me, 'I like to come to San Fernando because in hearing the words of Jesus explained to me, I discover good things about myself I had never suspected, and I can't wait to leave church so I can put them into action.' ” My own understanding of Christian conversion was redefined by this experience: a discovery of the goodness within us that we have not yet activated.  Our most painful and destructive sin is the failure to recognize the God instilled goodness within us. If we do not recognize it, how can we activate it?  No wonder the Gospel call to conversion is called "Good News"."

So my Lenten conversion attempts will be to let God show me some goodness in me that I have not activated or put into action.  I extend to you the invitation to join me in this Lenten Conversion adventure.

The Gospel presents us with the devil tempting Jesus.

It would seem that the temptations hinge on the words,  "If you are the Son of God"  This is exactly what the devil is challenging.  All that Luke tells about Jesus in the rest of his Gospel depends on Jesus' passing this test with honor.

As we begin Lent the Gospel takes us back to the end of Jesus' forty days.  We begin our forty days, Jesus ends his.  One may wonder if these temptations are real, literal or symbolic.  Surely the comparisons with the years in the desert are not coincidental.  Forty days, forty years; desert for the Jews, desert for Jesus.  The challenge to turn stone into bread reminds us of miraculous manna to feed the wanderers.  The desert people denied God to follow a golden calf.  Jesus is challenged to tempt God.  But here Jesus is faithful, the Jews were unfaithful.

During Jesus' public life he was tempted to multiply loaves.  People wanted to make him an earthly king.  The people called for spectacular signs to attract people.

On Ash Wednesday we heard, "Come back to me with all your heart."  My call to conversion this year is framed in the words of Fr. Virgil Elizondo, "a discovery of the goodness within us that we have not yet activated."  Many years ago I thought of Lent as returning to the loving embrace (arms) of God our Father.  I used another expression then, "to be hugged by God."  It seems to me that when we do get a good hug we are affirmed in our goodness.  We must let ourselves be hugged by God this Lent.  We must let our loving Sacred Heart of Jesus speak to our hearts.  He wants us to hear of our goodness. 

When we come in contact with the holy, we also become more aware of the unholy in us.  The Pope’s words for Ash Wednesday some years ago, speak about what conversion means:

“Let us understand the appeal the austere rite of ashes addresses to us, one expressed in two formulas: 'Repent and believe the Gospel' and 'You are dust and to dust you shall return'." The first is a call to conversion, a word that must be considered in its extraordinary seriousness. The call to conversion, in fact, exposes and denounces the easy superficiality that often characterizes our life. Conversion means to change direction in the path of our life: not, however, a small adjustment, but a real turnaround.  

"Conversion is to swim against a current of lifestyle that is superficial, incoherent and illusory, a current that often drag us down, dominates us and makes us slaves of evil or at least prisoners of moral mediocrity. With conversion, instead, we aim for the high standard of Christian life, we entrust ourselves to the living and personal Gospel, which is Jesus. He is the path we all are called to follow in life, allowing ourselves to be enlightened by His light and supported by His strength that moves our feet. Conversion is not simply a moral decision that corrects the way we live, but it is a choice of faith that draws us fully into intimate communion with the living and concrete person of Jesus. "His person is the final goal, He is the deepest meaning of conversion. Repent and believe the Gospel are not two different or casually combined things, rather they express the same reality. Conversion is the total 'yes' of those who surrender their lives to the Gospel, responding freely to Christ who first offers Himself to man as the way, truth and life, as the only one who liberates and saves.

Repent and believe the Gospel is not only at the beginning of Christian life, but it accompanies us at every stage. Every day is a time of favor and grace. Every day, even when there are difficulties and fatigue, tiredness and falls, even when we are tempted to abandon the path of following Christ and close in on ourselves, in our selfishness, without realizing that we need to open ourselves to the love of God in Christ, to live the same logic of justice and love.”

But let us stress finding the goodness that we have not activated.  Then we are called to action, to activate the goodness that we discover.

There is nothing magical about Lent.  Lent doesn't work unless we do.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Today's Scripture readings are full of sayings, some from the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures and some from the Gospel.  Sayings are common in various languages and cultures.  Spanish is full of "dichos". 

The Gospel sayings portray a human Jesus deeply immersed in the culture of his time and drawing on the folk wisdom of that culture, but turning it into a demanding challenge.

Two distinct ways of viewing the world emerge.  Some people are spiritually blind, produce evil fruit, act hypocritically, lack integrity (hear without acting) and build their lives on shaky foundations.

Others, like their teachers, are self-critical, bear good fruit and act out of the goodness of their hearts. 

Psychologists tell us that often those things we most dislike in others tend to be our own less desirable characteristics.  We are invited to reflect on how our peculiarities might seem healthy to ourselves, but those of our family, friends and neighbors might bother us and so we would like to change them. 

One of my favorite "dichos" from Spanish is: " CADA PERSONA TIENE SU PROPRIA LOCURA."  To me it means "Each person has their own brand of craziness." 

Jesus advice is for us to look inward before blaming others for problems.  We should be more concerned about the goodness of our own hearts than the thorns and brambles around us. 

Unless there is someone who can't speak here, we have all been given the gift of speech.  But speech also can be used for good or for bad.  We can encourage, thank, inspire, assure, confirm and wordfully grace others.  But we can also discourage, darken, accuse, falsify, lie, belittle and dispirit others.  Such a powerful gift. 

We hopefully are good trees, but we have some bent limbs and we can pray with the loving Unbender Who wishes to bless, encourage and give life through us.

One of the weaknesses of our Catholicism is that we too often separate theory and practice, saying and doing, knowing and being, words and deeds.  Our Catholic Church as institution has been more concerned with correct doctrines, opinions, the absence of heresy, truth, faith than with correct deeds, love, charity.  We must look at ourselves to see whether this split is in us.  Do our words say one thing and our actions another?  Jesus did not simply "preach" this primacy of practice; he lived it.  The message of Jesus invites us to deep personal introspection today:  am I seeking to remove the speck in others eyes, when I still have a plank in my own?

Are my words endorsed by my life, my sayings my acts, my appearance by my truth?  Am I authentic?  Am I integrated?  Do my thoughts, feelings, words and actions all match up?  Are there splits that I need to ask Jesus to help me to face during Lent?

Reflection by Dave Jackson

 

SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s Gospel presents us with perhaps the most difficult part of Jesus’ entire teaching.  But we have ways to deflect this teaching.  In the past when I’ve asked Congregations, “how many of you have enemies?” Many say they do not have any enemies.  No enemies, no need to love enemies.  

Some people say that these words of Jesus are not to be understood literally but rather figuratively or symbolically.  So if Jesus didn’t mean them literally we don’t have to love our enemies. 

When we have difficulty with our friends, we sometimes say, “with friends like you who needs enemies?”  Or sometimes we hear, “I have enough trouble loving my friends, let alone my enemies.”  But in saying these things we are admitting that we are not living up to Jesus’ ideal.  What would I have done had I been David in the first reading?  We heard that his enemy was at his mercy, he spared him.  What would I have done?

Ours is not a time that encourages forgiveness or love of enemies.  Ours is a time of law suits.  Someone harms you, “sue them”.  I saw a pretty woman go by in a car the other day.  As she sped on ahead of me I noticed the bumper sticker, “I don’t get mad I get even.”  Think back on the war against Sadam Hussein.  The American solution, “kill him.”  How many pictures have you seen with Sadam Hussein with a bull’s eye on him? In Israel we hear daily, “An Israeli was killed.”  The response is to kill as many Arabs as possible.  Retaliation it is called.  It is the principle of unlimited vengeance. 

We have this principle illustrated in the book of Genesis.  If someone harms you, you kill them, their whole family even their whole tribe.  But in the bible there is a development in the way we treat others.  Some people are still living out this first primitive stage.

 The principle of an “eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” is found in the book of Deuteronomy.  It was to limit vengeance.  You could return as you had received.  Many people are still living this principle out.

In the book of Sirach we have what’s called the “silver rule”  “Don’t do unto others what you would not have them do to you.”  If I don’t want people calling me names, I don’t call them names.

In the Gospel today we heard the “golden rule”  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  If I want to be treated with respect by another, then I treat the other with respect.  I don’t get in the position of always trying to be up and them down.  I listen and treat others with respect. 

But what do we see in the world in which we live?  The heavy weight boxer Michael Tyson bit off a part of his opponent’s ear.  We have the now famous scenes of policemen in California beating a black man senseless after a chase.  We also have seen the pictures of the illegal immigrants in California (caught after a chase) they too were beaten unmercifully.  We could continue to multiply the examples.  What are the attitudes that adults are communicating to young people today? 

We do have some examples of a different way of life.  Terry Anderson one of the hostages in Lebanon, when asked how he felt toward his captors said, “I forgive them, I have to I’m a Christian.”   We also have the example of the black man who was dragged to his death by people in a Texas city.  His sister said, “I am a follower of Jesus I have to forgive them.”  A college student was brutally beaten and killed on campus, his mother and sister said “we forgive his murderers and are working to see that it doesn’t happen again.” There is a group of parents and spouses of the people that died in 9/11 that have visited the families of those who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq.  They offer consolation.  These kinds of examples too can be multiplied. But to many people these are examples of weakness not of strength.  To many, maybe to us, they are seen as foolish. 

My mother often times would tell us, “You are your own worst enemy.”  So we need to examine our attitudes toward ourselves and toward others.  Jesus’ teaching at times leads people to stay in an abusive relationship.  People are abused physically, psychologically and sexually in a relationship.  This is not the time to turn the other cheek.  This is the time to get out.

In our society I believe that vengeance and getting even are also sapping the moral fiber of the United States.  In Jesus’ teaching we hear of a NEW WAY.  It is a difficult way.  In the words of the second reading, “to the natural and earthly persons” they are impossible.  But Jesus challenges us to a new way, a way that is supernatural and heavenly.  He lived this way.  On the Cross he said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”  Christ did not ask capital punishment for his murderers.  In Christ what is impossible to us, what goes against our instinctive responses, is possible in Jesus.  We can’t forgive as Jesus challenges without his grace. We must forgive and remember, not forgive and forget.  We must love our enemies.  We must be willing to give of our possessions.  The fact that we live so far from this ideal of Jesus is the reason that we have Lent each year: it is a call to conversion, conversion to Jesus, to the way he lived and the teaching that he taught.
The support given by people who claim to be Christians, even Fundamentalist Christians, to President Trump tells us that many people who claim the name "Christian" are "NOT CHRISTIANS".  Where do we find ourselves?

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s readings, the first, Psalm and Gospel offer us some contrasts.  In the First reading the contrast is between the cursed and the blest.  The Psalm contrasts the happy man and the wicked.  The Gospel contrasts the blessed and the woeful.  For the next three Sundays we will be hearing Luke’s Sermon on the Plain.  Today’s Gospel passage is an introduction; it will be followed by teaching on love and a warning against false teachers (in the form of a parable). 

It would appear that the communities to whom Luke is writing are comprised of poor and rich, those who hunger, those who are full, those who weep and those who laugh.  Luke is teaching all of them about discipleship, following of Jesus.

Jesus’ preaching, blessing the poor and hungry, would have attracted many of the slaves and lower class in the Roman World.  But there were also people who were attracted who were not slaves but of the upper classes.  These also were attracted to Jesus and his teaching as they received it. 

In an agrarian society the fate of the poor is always to be ostracized socially.  These are the ones spoken of in vs. 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.”

But for the rich who followed Jesus and became part of a community that also had poor members, they too would suffer the same kind of fate, ostracism, “hate, exclude, insult, denounce as evil...”

The words of challenge from Jesus are to all members of the community (they will be heard next Sunday) “...love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you”

There was antagonism between the rich and the poor, between those who are filled now and those who are hungry, those who laugh now and those who are weeping now, those spoken of well now, those hated now. The people of Jesus time believed in “limited goods”.  There was only so much to go around. If one person had more, I had less.  The rich were seen as having power, the capacity to take from someone weaker.  Being rich was synonymous with being greedy.  To be poor was to be unable to defend what was yours.  It meant falling below the status at which one was born.  It was to be defenseless, without recourse. 

Within the community, the poor (in Luke’s community the slaves and the lower classes) must love the rich, do good to them, bless them, pray for them.  The rich must love the poor, the hungry, the slaves and lower classes, do good to them, bless them, pray for them.  Then together both the rich and the poor must treat those from outside their community (those who mistreat them, their enemies) with love, prayer and forgiveness.

This is perhaps the most difficult teaching of Jesus.  It is a total reversal of values. 

Poverty is not, for Jesus, a good thing.  Poverty, being poor usually means, being hungry, without necessary food or shelter or clothes or work.  It means lack of medical care, not having good water and sewerage.  These are bad things.  In what does the blessedness of the poor consist?  First it would seem that God and Jesus have a special love for the poor, a preferential option for the poor.  Secondly, many of the poor have an awareness of their dependence upon God.  To be poor means to be weak in relation to my neighbor, to be rich means to be strong in relation to my neighbor.

Jesus words have meaning for both rich and poor.  For us, we must ask, in what does my happiness consist,  Money, winning the lottery, prestige, power, to be well spoken of, etc?

Luke is clear in his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles: those who have should share their possessions.  The leaders of the community should not only pay attention to the powerful, the rich.  They must imitate Jesus in his concern for the poor and the fringe or outcast people of the society.

Who do I think of when I say “rich”?  Who do I think of when I say, “Poor”?  What is Jesus teaching me in the Gospel Words this Sunday?



P.S. There is some interesting study and writing being done in our time, that Jesus may have been driven to be an itinerant artisan.  Could his family have lost their plot of land due to death (St. Joseph), bad crops, or taxes both political and religious? Could this have happened to the people in Nazareth besides Jesus' family?  If so what he did as a carpenter then might have made him go on the road to find work and possibly do more than just carpentry.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s readings present to us three people.  Each one has a different experience of God.  They are Isaiah, Paul and Simon.  Notice their different reactions to the experience of the holy.  Then notice how God the Holy One responds to them. 

Each of these experiences of God takes place in a different place.  Isaiah experiences God in the temple.  Simon experiences God at his workplace.  Paul’s special experience of God was on a journey. 

Experiences of the HOLY.

1) Isaiah’s experience may be real or it may be symbolic.  If real an angel touched or burned his lips with a coal.  If symbolic it may speak of an experience that we all have.  We speak of “getting burned.”  Some examples of the way we get burned are: someone disappoints us, someone rips us off, and the death of someone near to us can in a way “burn us”.  There are many other ways that we get burned.  Sometimes the burning is purification.  These experiences change us, we are not the same.  This seems to have been the experience of Isaiah. 

2) Simon’s experience is that Jesus tells him to push out from the shore and lower his nets on the other side.  Remember Peter had been fishing all night.  Jesus seems to have been a carpenter.  But Peter does what Jesus asks.  Why does Peter follow this direction of Jesus?   As Luke tells the story of Jesus he puts the healing of Simon’s mother in law before this call.  He also has Jesus doing some miracles before the call. Simon does put out into the deep and lets down his nets. 

3) We speak of Paul being knocked off his horse on the way to Damascus.  He surely had a special experience of God.

REACTION TO THE EXPERIENCE OF THE HOLY.

The reactions of Isaiah and Simon to their experience of the holy are quite similar.  Isaiah cries, “Woe is me, I am doomed.  For I am a man of unclean lips”   Simon says, “Leave me Lord.  I am a sinful man.”  Paul also is aware that he was a persecutor and says the he doesn’t deserve the name apostle.  Contact with the holy leads to us to contact our own sinfulness as well. 

HOW GOD TREATS THESE SINNERS

1) In Isaiah God asks the question:  “Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?" Isaiah, now a changed man responds, "Here I am, send me!" The rest of the book of Isaiah tells us how God used him.

2) To Simon’s response of awareness of his sinfulness Jesus says, “Do not be afraid from now on you will be catching people.”  Jesus will use sinful Simon powerfully, especially as the book of Acts shows. 

3) God’s choice of Paul too, is reflected in Paul’s marvelous missionary work. 

Lessons for Life:

4)  God can come to us in many different places and in many different ways.

5)  The experiences in our life in which we “get burned,” change us.  When we make contact with the holy we also make contact with ourselves as sinners.  An awareness of us as sinners can also be a deepening of our relationship with the holy.

6)  Sometimes God is asking us to put out into the deep and let down our nets.

7)  God has worked with sinners of the past and made them Missionaries, people sent to preach his word.  Is God calling you to some particular preaching of his word?  In Spanish the words

pescador and pecador are only different by one letter “s”.  We who are in touch that we are sinners (pecadores) are also called by Jesus to be fishers (pescadores).


8) The Vincentian Meditation for the previous Sunday made this statement: "Jesus  modeled doing before teaching."


I have often heard: "Actions speak louder than words."



9) There is also a quote that many times is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.  It comes in many forms:




Preach the gospel always, and if necessary, use words.



10) My personal experience of the Catholic Church in the U.S. is that we have put much more emphasis on teaching and doctrine to the detriment of the Call to Action.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

One of the ways that Luke looks at Jesus is to call Jesus a prophet.  We still have a tendency to think of a prophet as someone who foretells the future.  But a prophet is one who speaks on behalf of God.  Prophets are called to announce and denounce. Or another definition I like: "Prophets are called to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." In today’s readings we have three prophets announcing and denouncing: Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus.  They each paid the price for their steadfastness in their call.

In the Gospel passage there is a quick change or conversion.  At first “all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”  But by the end of the reading today we heard:  “they were filled with fury.  They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill to hurl him down headlong.”

The reason for the mood change in the Gospel is clear.  Jesus tells them something that challenges their way of thinking, some of their security.  It would seem that they wished to have Jesus become their own private healer.  Jesus reminds them from their own history of two examples of God’s graciousness to those outside of Israel.  He cites the story of Elijah who was sent to a widow who was not a Jew.  She was blessed and received a miracle.  He also recalls that Elisha was sent to a leper Naaman the Syrian (another non-Jew). Naaman received his miracle.

 Jesus clearly makes the point that there were needy widows and lepers in Israel in those days.  But God sent Elijah and Elisha to the non-Jews.  In this passage Jesus doesn’t explicitly say he too will extend the Kingdom of God to non-Jews.  In the course of the Gospel Jesus will feed hungry people, raise a widow’s son and heal leprosy.  But Jesus healing touch will also extend to non Jews.  One of the lepers is a “foreigner” Samaritan.  He will cure a Roman centurion’s servant.  He will attempt to minister in Samaria (9:51-56).  In Luke’s second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, the Gospel will spread into more and more non-Jewish areas.  Probably the readers of Luke’s Gospel and the Acts were non-Jews (Gentiles).  The response to Jesus will be the norm for belonging to the new People of God.  It matters not whether you are Jew or non-Jew (Gentile).  It matters whether you accept Jesus and his teaching and live it out.

After a violent attempt on his life, Jesus will simply walk away.  This foreshadows the end of the Gospel when the violence will take his life on the cross, but even then Jesus will pass through, he will be raised from the grip of death to new lif

Lessons for life: Have you ever in your life experience had a mood change quickly and abruptly, like in the Gospel?  A change from amazement to fury?   If so, what caused it in another or possibly in you?

Is there some area in my life that Jesus has been challenging me on?  Is there something about the way I am living, the attitudes I have, that is not in conformity with the words that Jesus taught and the life that he lived?  Am I excluding someone that Jesus would not exclude?  Why? What am I called to do about it?

Jesus evades his attackers in this Gospel passage.  Ultimately he will evade even their killing of him.  He will rise to new life.  The promise for us too is that we can pass from hostility and even death to newness of life in Jesus.  The people of Jesus time reject him as healer and prophet.  Are we able to face that we too might be rejecting something of Jesus and yet asking him for Miracles?

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

In each of the three readings today it seems we have a program for action.

    1) The people of the first reading are called to listen attentively to the book of the Law.  The law has power to uplift and sustain.

    2) Paul uses the metaphor of the body to teach people that we are to live as newly created people whose gifts complement each other.

    3) Luke gives us the “inaugural speech” of Jesus, quite stark and unadorned:  Jesus has come in the power of the Holy Spirit to make things better for the poor and others on the margin.

The Gospel today comes from two different chapters of Luke’s Gospel.  The first part is from chapter one.  There we learn that Luke is a third generation follower of Jesus.  He speaks of “eyewitnesses and then ministers of the word.”  Luke introduces the reader to his Gospel as a whole.  The second part is from chapter four and introduces the beginning of Jesus public ministry.  In this passage we learn in summary fashion of the program for Jesus’ life.

Jesus roots his mission and ministry in the written word of Isaiah, in which the Spirit sends the prophet to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberation to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and freedom for the oppressed. I never noticed it before, but this line speaks volumes about Jesus: “He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written . . . .”  In other words Jesus knew the book of Isaiah and was looking for this particular passage. He was regularly  attending the Synagogue on Sabbath and must have listened attentively to the readings.  These words reflect the biblical idea of  Jubilee.  Pope John Paul II quoted them when he spoke of the Jubilee Year.

These words will be fleshed out in the actions and teachings of Jesus in the rest of Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles.

But these words are also a challenge to us.  The todayness of this Gospel reminds us that the church must continually renew the true jubilee of concern for the marginal and freedom for the oppressed. We seem to have an uncanny ability to block out those portions of Scripture that challenge our prejudices and to magnify those that confirm our own advantage.  If we look at the issues that are promulgated through much of the TV and radio religious programming, what do we find? Forgiveness? The poor? Liberty for captives?  Setting the down-trodden free?  Caring for the wounded?  No these are not the topics we hear.  We hear of the Health and Wealth Gospel.  Give financially that you may receive health and wealth.  Money and self interest are talked of almost to the exclusion of other Gospel topics.

One commentator on these words has said:  “We have pried open a yawning gap between the world of faith and the world of ‘real’ issues.  As a result, we never have to worry about changing our behavior or confronting our culture.”

As we witness a “presidential” inauguration or hear a State of the Union Message, we must ask where are the kinds of people Jesus was concerned about in his inaugural address at Nazareth.

The bishops of the U.S tell us:  “The Church’s social teaching is a rich treasure of wisdom about building a just society and living lives of holiness amidst the challenges of modern society." Several of the key themes that are at the heart of our Catholic social tradition are:

Life and Dignity of the Human Person;  Call to Family, Community, and Participation;  Rights and Responsibilities;  Option for the Poor and Vulnerable;  The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers;  Solidarity; and Care for God’s Creation. 

We as Catholics are called to oppose abortion.  Most Catholics support this view. But to be Pro-life means much more than to be opposed to abortion. We are also called to oppose the death penalty.  This is a clear teaching of our Holy Father and our United States bishops that many people choose to disagree with.  We are called in our tradition of social teaching to propose an economy of service rather than greed.  These are matters of faith.  These are matters rooted in our continuing to work for the mission of Jesus.  Our Catholic church has a rich tradition of involvement with “real” issues.  But most Catholics have not heard of this teaching.  Sr. Simone Campbell of NETWORK has brought the church’s social teaching to the forefront.  It would seem that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious’ emphasis on social justice brought them into conflict with the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.  Under Pope Francis this was finally resolved.

With Jesus we have a call to a new creation.  We are to be agents of this new creation.  The Church must be good news to all people, but especially to those who are broken in many different ways.  This is not something which we, as members of the Church, may or may not choose to do.  It is Jesus’ most challenging word to us today.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

The story of the wedding feast of Cana is only told in John’s Gospel.  A particular characteristic of John’s Gospel is his use of symbolism.  Many times the stories in John’s Gospel are working on several different levels of meaning.

At a very basic level this is a story of Jesus accepting an invitation (a call)  to a local wedding.  His mother is also present and seems to be helping the family with hospitality.  It is a story about a family, about being a good neighbor, about human celebration.  These events are part of our experience as well.  But into this story comes an uncomfortable shortage.  Through Mary’s mediation Jesus wonderfully comes to the rescue.  The story reminds us that faith is a family affair.  It appeals to our Catholic view of Mary as intercessor for us.  But John appears to have much more in mind.

This story looks back and completes the story of the first days of Jesus ministry in John’s Gospel.  The wedding is the culmination of the first week in Jesus’ public life.  John’s Gospel begins with the words: “In the beginning was the Word . . . ”  There are echoes from the book of Genesis which begins:  “In the beginning God created . . .” Genesis then goes on to tell the story of creation in seven days.  John parallels Genesis with his structure of beginning days in Jesus’ ministry. 

The story also fulfills,  in a beginning way, the call of the disciples.  Jesus called his first disciples and now after the wedding feast of Cana we are told: “ . . . his disciples began to believe in him.” The geographic site of Cana is unique to the fourth gospel. "Jesus begins his activity not in the headquarters of the Law, not in the center of the religious world of Israel, but on the obscure margins, hidden, quiet, yet invited." Becoming Children of God, p. 78.

In a third sense this story is a fulfillment story.  There were six large water jars empty.  John creates suspense almost making the jars appear to be waiting for something to happen.  Jews were conscious of numbers and their symbolism.  Six is incomplete. "The six jars are juxtaposed with the six days of the gospel's first week: the older is being replaced by the new." Becoming, p. 79 The jars are used for religious ceremonies for washing and purification.  The jars can hold twenty to thirty gallons.  They are filled, filled to the brim.  Then the water is changed into wine, but not just ordinary wine, but wine of the highest quality.  In the Jewish scriptures the coming of the Messiah was at times described as a time when there would be an abundance of wine.  Wine was a symbol of joy.  It  still is today.  We toast special events. 

As the Gospel story continues according to John, Jesus will replace the old with the new.  But for now the incompleteness of the Jewish people, the incompleteness of the disciples, resonates with our own sense of feeling incomplete, our sense of emptiness, our longing for more.  Jesus is a promise of fulfillment, joy, and abundance.

Mary’s words to the servants were:  “Do whatever he tells you.”  Mary’s greatness lies not only in her being the Mother of Jesus but in her faithful discipleship.  In Luke, Jesus responds to the praise of his Mother with the Words, “Blest are they who hear the word of God and obey it.”  Are we not in touch here with a clear example of the ways our Mothers’ words stick with us.  Mary’s words to the servants are almost exactly the same as those Jesus speaks in Luke's Gospel of his mother.  These words have become as it were watchwords for the Christian ages.  They are the way to true Discipleship.  In our relationship with God we are many times preoccupied to present our needs to God.  We share our dreams and desires with God.  But Mary’s words point out to us the need to listen.  We must take time in prayer to listen for the Word of the Lord.

The Words of John’s Gospel in this story also find resonance in us in our sacramental life.  We have gathered for the Eucharist, we have listened to the Word of the Lord, we will have the opportunity to share changed wine and changed bread, the Blood and Body of Jesus.  Mary and Jesus wish to be part of our ordinary life.  Jesus promises fulfillment to us too.  We must listen to the Word of the Lord and then carry it out.  John ends this story with the words, “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee . . . ” The first part of John's Gospel has been titled "The book of Signs". The second part is titled "The Book of Glory". Like the disciples we have the opportunity to share in Jesus glory and to believe in him.  We must follow Jesus.  The Gospels open up to us what this following means, not just for the disciples of Jesus time, but for us. The original ending of this Gospel, the end of Ch. 20 we hear the author's purpose: "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name." We can use Ordinary time to deepen our relationship with Jesus and accept the challenge to follow the example of his words and actions.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 


 
   

 

 

 
 
 
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