This Past Friday
This Past Friday
This past Friday, I had dinner with my friends Msgr. Sam Sirianni, Sister Eleanor McCann, and Fr. Sam's brother, Michael. Then, Sister Eleanor stayed overnight at the Parish House. All three of them were able to join us for the Welcoming Party for new parishioners, and I've been told that their presence made it the "best Welcoming Party....ever!" We had a great time, and lots of laughs.
After the party wrapped up, I had a chance to chat with Sr. Eleanor, and the subject of the Holy Land came up. I have never been there, but Sister El has been, several times. She spoke about all of the wonderful places she had been to, including the village of Cana.
Knowing that we were going to get this particular Gospel reading this Sunday, I asked her about what modern-day Cana is like. She sort of indicated that it's a pretty tacky, and commercial town....full of tourists and vendors of cheap artifacts, postcards, cheap T-shirts, etc. They even have wine from Cana! She told me that couples go to the church there, on the site of that first miracle to renew their wedding vows.
Overall, it sort of reminded me of Seaside Heights at the height of summer!
Obviously, Cana is a very different place from the town Jesus would have known some 2,000 years ago. But, in a way, it's sort of a living testament to the story we just heard.
Because, at its heart, this gospel story is ultimately about CHANGE. TRANSFORMATION. CONVERSION.
It tells us, very dramatically, as St. John often does, about how the ordinary became extaordinary, how water became wine, all because of an encounter with CHRIST.
In fact, the miracle of this gospel is the miracle of the WHOLE CHRISTIAN LIFE --the beautiful reality that we can be changed ---BY JESUS!
We are water. But we can become WINE!
And it all begins with LISTENING, and FOLLOWING.
"Do whatever he tells you," Mary says -- and in that moment you will find every Catechism, every commandment, boiled down to a simple phrase...."Do whatever he tells you."
It's significant....those are the last words Mary actually speaks in the Gospel accounts...."Do whatever he tells you."
But she doesn't need to say any more. That instruction says it all -- especially about the importance of obedience, and the transformative power of grace.
Christ's GRACE makes the impossible....possible. It changes sinners into saints. It transforms tax collectors and fishermen into apostles and preachers and popes. Christ makes the mundane a MIRACLE!
From the water of our lives, ....Christ makes WINE.
Of course wine is more than just a nice addition to a meal.
Think about what will happen to wine at this altar in just a few moments....At the table of the Lord, it will BECOME THE LORD. All of which suggests that, to be changed by Christ, to become wine, is to share not only in his GRACE; it is to share in his PASSION as well.
And especially this week, no place is experiencing that more than Haiti.
I saw on TV, Archbishop Tim Dolan of New York, who was in Rome this past week, that when he heard about the earthquake, he went over to St. Peter's Basilica to PRAY....and he wound up in the chapel of the Pieta....the famous statue of Michelangelo of Mary cradling her dead son...after his crucifixion.
"I realized," the archbishop said later, "that Haiti is the broken, bloody body of Christ."
So, on a morning (evening) when the scriptures speak to us of TRANSFORMATION, we remember that HAITI has also been transformed. The poorest country in our hemisphere, where the vast majority of people are Catholic...has been reduced to rubble.
The Cathedral has collapsed. The Archbishop has perished in the 'quake. Seminarians and entire religious orders have been wiped out.
A whole country has been TRANSFORMED by tragedy.
And on this morning (evening) the Gospel calls on each of us to effect another kind of transformation....within ourselves!
It calls us to be not merely watchers....but workers.
Not just spectators...but servants---servants of the GOSPEL,
servants of one another, servants of the suffering people of Haiti.
As Mother Mary held the lifeless body of her son in her arms, we are asked this day to HOLD HAITI. To love what is bloody and bruised and broken.
Today, in churches across our country, there will be collections for HAITI. We will donate to CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES, an agency proven to be EFFECTIVE, EFFICIENT, and RELIABLE.
You've seen the images...You've read the stories.
I sure don't need to tell you how desperate the situation is. This is a moment when all of us are called upon to go beyond ourselves: to love the neighbor we do not know...to bind his wounds...to dry her tears.
We can do that with donations, of course. Millions have already given by TEXT MESSAGES and credit cards. But we can also do it with something people often forget in this secular age.
We can do it with prayer.
If we do nothing else, we need to pray for the people of Haiti.
Pray for the Lost, the Orphaned, the Widowed, the Helpless.
Pray for the mother who was on CNN the other night. She lost all five of her children, and her family could only hold her while she screamed.
Pray for the students who were killed at the SEMINARY.
Pray for the rescue workers who are facing a new nightmare every day --- without power, or water -- surrounded every hour of every day by the sounds and the smells of death.
But pray as well that -- through our sacrifice, and our prayer, and the good works of so many people around the world -- Haiti may be transformed once more.
The glorious words from today's first reading from Isaiah offer this consolation for a suffering world:
"No more shall people call you "Forsaken,"
or your land "Desolate"
but you shall be called "My Delight,"
and your land "Espoused."
What was water....WILL become WINE.
I think back to the image of Archbishop Tim Dolan praying in front of the Pieta.
The Pieta, a grieving mother holding in her arms her dead child.
And I think of all of the parents in Haiti who are doing that this week,....and in the days to come.
Yet, even in the midst of that terrible sorrow...the grief of Our Lady of Sorrows, cradling her child in her arms, we find HOPE.
And we find HOPE for the people of HAITI.
Because despite everything, our faith assures us of this:
THAT THE AGONY AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS WAS NOT THE END OF THE STORY!
THERE IS, STILL TO COME, A RESURRECTION!