2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 20, 2019
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Today’s gospel is one of my favorite texts in scripture.
It really is what I often call a treasure chest of rich gems and precious jewels.
For example it gives us foundational teaching on
the sacraments, grace, marriage, the Eucharist and Mary.
Think about that.
Jesus changes water into wine:
He takes naturally good and healthy water, essential to all,
and transforms into something more wonderful,
that lifts our spirits and opens us up to peace and joy.
This is exactly what happens in the sacraments.
For example, in baptism Jesus takes a naturally good thing, like water,
and transforms it into a life-giving spring of grace
purifying us and pouring His life into us.
And we see the effect of Jesus’ grace,
acting on the sacrament and in the sacrament.
In today’s story, Jesus’ grace first transforms water into wine
and that in turn saves the wedding feast
and transforms the couple’s panic into joy,
Just like in the Eucharist,
when Jesus’ grace transforms bread and wine into His Body and Blood,
and that in turn strengthens us and draws us closer to Him in Communion.
And if He can change water into wine,
He can, and does, transform a good and loving human relationship
between in a man and woman
into a communion of life and love that shares in the very love of God Himself.
And so we see the sacrament of marriage prefigured in the wedding at Cana.
And then we see Mary: the text tells us that this was
“the beginning of [Jesus’] signs …and so revealed His glory.”
In the same way, this was the beginning of Mary’s
great intercession for the all of us,
thus, revealing the glory Jesus has given her.
Notice, Jesus calls her “woman”,
which is what Eve is called in the first chapters of Genesis,
showing us Mary as the new Eve, who says “yes” to God, when Eve said “no.”
And then, without being asked,
she sees the problem and brings it to Jesus, as His Mother.
And trusting in Jesus, she tells the servants: “do whatever He tells.”
It’s an amazing text: a true treasure chest.
But like all treasure chests, sometimes when focus on the most spectacular gems,
we miss the other jewels that are not so stunning, but still priceless.
And in this story that tends to be … “the servers”.
The servants bring their simple water to Jesus
and then wind up taking the best wine ever to the wedding guests.
They are transformed from being mere waiters to messengers of God
—like the angels, or the apostles, sent by Jesus,
to distribute His grace to the wedding feast.
They become just as much a part of the miracle as the water and wine,
and Mary and Jesus.
Just as Mary is not equal to Jesus, but is given an essential role in His Mission,
the servants are also not equal to Jesus or Mary,
but are also given an essential role in His mission.
How will the Word go out, how will the grace spread, if someone doesn’t take it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this aspect of the text over the last few weeks,
and it’s proven to be a real pearl of great price
to help me understand a something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about.
And that is, service in our parish: parishioners volunteering to help in the parish.
In today’s second reading St. Paul tells us,
“there are different forms of service but the same Lord…”
This is something that rings very true and practical in the life of the parish.
Think of all the different forms of service.
Father Smith (and Daly) and I have the service of being your priests.
Then there’s the parish staff:
running the office, taking care of the building, educating your children, etc.
And then there’s all of you.
What is your service?
Now, some serve our parish by simply, but amazingly, being good parents,
or by representing our parish in the world as civic leaders.
But then again, even folks like that often find that the Lord is inviting them
to server the the parish more directly.
St. Paul today goes on to talk about the spiritual gifts each person has:
“To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.”
Actually, that’s a weak translation of the Greek.
It really ought to say,
“To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for the common good.”
God has given us all various gifts—both supernatural and natural—
and all of them are given to us for “the common good.”
And so I say to you, what natural gift has God given you for the common good?
And how might he be asking you to use that at St. Raymond’s?
It seems pretty clear that most parishioners don’t do a lot of service in the parish.
We have about 6000 registered parishioners,
of which a little over 2,300 come to Mass every week.
Of that, only about 300 people regularly commit to a particular role of service
in the parish.
And of those, about 50 take many different roles of service—they’re everywhere.
300 people, out of 6000, or out of 2300.
Think of that: a lot of people seem to come here only to
hear the word of God or receive the sacraments—to be served.
It’s as if they want to go to the wedding feast to enjoy themselves as guests,
but very few want to serve the meal and the wine.
Now, I’m not complaining,
Please understand: I love this parish and you are great parishioners and I wouldn’t trade you for anything.
And I’m not picking on anyone–really.
But I am inviting everyone.
The truth is, Jesus established His Church,
so that most of us would usually be the ones being served
—because Jesus is always serving us:
He “came not to be served but to serve.”
But as St. Paul tells us elsewhere, we must,
“be servants to one another out of reverence to Christ.”
Now, there are lots of ways to be servants.
Even if you are sitting in the pews at Mass,
you can serve each other and God by simply praying,
or by being kind to each other,
or even by saying the prayers and singing songs,
and so helping others to pray and sing.
But there are also many other more concrete and committed ways
that the gifts God has given you
might be meant to serve “the common good” of our parish.
Now, some may be thinking this is a very clever way of Father
trying to get some free help in the parish.
Of course, others may say it’s a pretty clumsy way.
But the thing is, I don’t need your help—at least not for my benefit.
I mean, I could eliminate a lot of the things we do around here,
and my life would be a lot easier,
and the Bishop wouldn’t fire me or dock my pay dime.
I know a lot of parishes that have a lot fewer activities and services,
and their pastors are doing just fine.
This is not about my good, it’s about the common good of our parish
and your own good.
I don’t want this parish to be “okay”, or “good”—I want it to be the best it can be.
And by that I don’t mean having the most or nicest things to do,
but having the best things to help you live the Christian life in this world
so that one day you will live it in heaven.
And for that, I do need your help!
The truth is, Jesus wants you to serve Him and your neighbor, out of love.
And He put you here, in this parish: these are your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Can you be truly good, if you are not a good servant to them?
When I was the Vicar at St. Mary’s in Old Town—now the Basilica
—there were lots of very important people there.
Cabinet members, a former Speaker of the House, Generals, etc.
One of them told me he wanted to serve in the parish on the Finance Council.
And the guy would have been great at it.
But I suggested that instead of that, why not begin with something a little simpler.
I suggested he be an usher.
Well, honestly he didn’t much like the idea, but he did it.
And about two months later he came back to me thanking me profusely:
he was a powerful guy in the world,
but that often led him to sometimes be prideful and rude,
and working as an usher was helping him to grow in patience, charity
and above all humility.
By serving, he was becoming holy.
Some people say, “I’m too busy.”
I think of at least three different couples in the parish,
Who are constantly working in important jobs,
while also raising large families with lots of kids,
but also find time to be the back bone of
so many committees and activities of the parish I don’t even know them all.
They haven’t been “too busy” for years.
Some say, but I don’t really have any talents to offer, or I’m not well enough.
I think of the elderly homebound parishioner who loved teenagers
but couldn’t figure how she could help with the Youth Apostolate,
until Jeanne asked her to make food and snacks for the kids’ meetings.
In the end, none of has what it takes to serve the way we should.
But then we remember that at Cana Jesus transformed simple water into wine,
and simple waiters into God’s messengers.
I can think right now of particular needs we have for volunteers to serve
as ushers, youth group leaders, and in the choir.
But there are dozens more opportunities
—if you look in today’s bulletin you’ll find an insert with a whole list.
So look in the bulletin today.
And maybe make a call to volunteer tomorrow or next week.
My friends, as we move more deeply into this Holy Mass,
the Wedding Feast of Heaven come down to earth,
let us ask the Blessed Mother to intercede for us
to know how Christ wants us to serve him and each other.
And as He transforms wine and bread into His own Blood and Body
and we receive Him in Holy Communion,
let us beg Him to transform us by this grace,
to have the courage to follow His Mother Mary’s instructions
to the servants of the feast: “Do whatever He tells you.”