Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 2C
Anyone who has been involved in a wedding can start to appreciate just how much work and planning goes into an event that lasts only a few hours. Arrangements need to be made for the church, the reception hall, the invitations, RSVPs, the photographer, the music, the suits and dresses, the flowers, table arrangements, and the rings, just to name a few things. Now weddings in the time of Jesus were a little different from what they are today. For one thing, instead of lasting a few hours, the wedding reception would typically last for seven days. Now think of the planning and preparation that would be involved in throwing a party that would last a week. I, for one, would not want to be in charge. Still, those were probably simpler times in other ways. At least there were no photographers or rings.
And in today’s Gospel, Mary and Jesus point out what was thought to make for a great wedding feast in their day, namely, lots and lots of good wine. If you do the math of the wine that Jesus makes after the original supply runs out, Jesus gives them between 120 and 180 gallons of wine. Now that’s quite the open bar. Jesus makes sure that they would not run out again. But the abundance of wine at the wedding feast was not just for the guests to have a good time. The wine is symbolic, as John the Evangelist tells us, the first of the signs that Jesus performed, a sign of the abundance of all God’s blessings, that God doesn’t just give us enough to get by, but if we’re really willing to turn to Him and follow His ways, He gives us more than we would ever need. The first of the miracles of Jesus shows us that even when our human limitations result in failure and embarrassment, God’s abundance can transform us and open us up to new possibilities.
One of my favorite class sessions of all time was in my course in Rome on Social Justice. We had a guest speaker one day to talk about economics. Most striking to me was a consideration of our starting point and perspective. Too often we start from a perspective of scarcity, that resources are limited, and therefore, we need to stake our claim and carve out our own share of the world’s wealth if we want to be successful in today’s economy. Competition becomes the driving force, and eliminating the competition ensures our continued survival and success. But this is not really the Christian perspective.
As Christians, we begin from the perspective, not of scarcity, but of abundance, the abundance of God’s gift of creation and how it is able to be renewed. How new life can spring up even from the ashes of what seemed lost to us, like new saplings sprouting after a forest fire. And beyond the merely material, the Spirit of God moves in various ways, to open up new possibilities, as we heard in our second reading, from first Corinthians. Since we start from this perspective of the abundance of God’s gifts, competition serves a secondary role. Cooperation and mutual understanding are more important than competition. Instead of manipulating the consumer to desire and to purchase something he doesn’t really need, the best businesses strive to actually understand and think creatively about how to provide for the genuine needs and desires of the people they are called to serve in today’s economy.
In our relationship with God, and with family members, friends, and those we meet every day, what is our starting point? What sort of economics of relationship do we have? Do we begin from the perspective of scarcity and competition, envious and possessive of time and attention? Or are we really able to give of ourselves with generosity and cooperation, the way that God gives? Not giving just enough to get by, not rationing our love by weight and measure, but giving freely from an abundance? Do we have confidence that God has ways of supplying what we truly need so that the wine will not run short?
If we are willing, like our Mother Mary, to be attentive to the needs of those around us, if we are willing with her to bring our petitions to Jesus, to think creatively and cooperatively with Jesus and with one another about the problems that we face, if we are willing, as Mary instructs the servants at the wedding feast, to actually “do whatever he tells” us, then Jesus is still willing and able to bring new wine from our dirty water, to bring God’s abundance out of our human limitations, to bring life even out of death and love even out of hatred and terror. May the Lord who transformed water into wine, and who continues to transform bread and wine into his own Body and Blood, transform our hearts into His own, so that we will have all confidence to give of ourselves freely, back to God and to all who are in need.