Sunday, January 17, 2016

His Hour

   Second Sunday in Ordinary Time   C 

At the time I was learning how to cook,
I was also learning how to appreciate wine.
One of my “gourmet” friends 
taught me a good rule of thumb
to make sure you’ll always 
have enough fruit of the vine
for your dinner party:
divide your number of guests in half, then add one—
that’s how many bottles of wine 
you should have on hand.
I’ve never run short.

I was thinking of that principle 
as I reflected on this Sunday’s gospel.
Doing just a little bit of research and math,
I calculated that the water turned wine by Jesus
would have filled between 600 and 900 modern bottles.
Even if it was a really big wedding,
there’d be enough to make it though dinner!

But this first—and rather extravagant—
of the miraculous signs performed by Jesus
apparently went unnoticed
by most of the folks who directly benefited from it.

Jesus says to Mary, “How does your concern affect me? 
My hour has not yet come.”

Jesus went along with his mother to that wedding
as a regular ol’ guest.
Were the newlyweds family friends? Neighbors?
Perhaps customers of the carpentry shop?
We don’t know.
But we can safely assume that Jesus wasn’t invited
because he was a rising star of a preacher
with a reputation for performing wonders.
If there were any rumors about him floating around,
they would have been surrounding the circumstances of his birth,
not that he might be a prophet—and certainly not the Messiah!
Jesus’ public ministry had only just begun.
His hour had not yet come.
He appeared to be an ordinary man
living an ordinary life among so many others.

But how is Jesus’ true identity
not discovered by his fellow wedding guests
even after producing 900 bottles of really fine wine?
Because most of them weren’t at all aware
that the wine had run out.
From the way the story’s told,
you get the impression that even the headwaiter—
who should have known better than anyone—
seems oblivious to the fact that this dinner party
was about to come to a crashing halt.

When you don’t realize there’s any problem,
then you’re not in the least on the lookout
for somebody to save you from it.

The Church continues to bask in the light of the Lord’s Epiphany, 
celebrating the saving mystery that the God of heaven
has been made manifest here on earth:
manifest as a tiny child to the star-guided magi;
manifest in the waters of the Jordan River
as the heavens opened, the Spirit descended,
and the Father’s voice was heard;
and manifest today at Cana in Galilee,
as the hand which had once divided the waters at creation
now turns water into wine.

But this great revelation of Jesus
as God come in human flesh,
as the Only Begotten Son of God,
as the promised and long-awaited Savior of God’s people
is of little avail to those who have no idea they need saving.

And so the party goes on as planned
with just another ordinary guy among so many others.

We regularly ask God to reveal himself to us—
to make his presence clearly known,
and often in miraculous ways.
But a far more foundational step is to ask God
to reveal us to ourselves:
to open our eyes to our real need, our weakness, our sin.
Who needs a Savior when “it’s all good”?
Who needs a liberator when he thinks he’s already free?

Has Jesus’ hour come in your life?
It’s not a question of his presence;
we have his assurance that he remains with us always (Mt 28:20).
Nor is it a question of what he can or cannot do;
as his Virgin Mother understood so well:
for him, all things are possible (Lk 1:37).
It’s a matter of recognizing
that your life is otherwise incomplete,
that you have deep wounds in need of healing,
that you’re incapable of saving yourself—
that you can’t go on without him.

Whether anybody noticed or not,
Jesus was no ordinary wedding guest.
And that’s because he’s no ordinary man:
in Jesus, the truth about God is revealed to us;
in Jesus, the truth about ourselves is revealed to us, too.
Recognize your need that you may recognize your Savior,
and then watch him change your life in a way far greater
than turning water into so much good wine.

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