Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
20 January 2013
St. Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan, 10.30am.
My dear friends,
A man went to see his Bank Manager to ask for a loan. When he had taken particulars, the Bank Manager said, “Really, I should not give you a loan. Strictly, you are not eligible. However, it’s Friday afternoon, and I will give you a sporting chance. One of my eyes is a glass one. If you can tell me which one it is, you can have your loan.” The customer looked at him intently for a few moments and then said, “It’s your right eye,” “That is correct,” said the Bank Manager, “how did you know?” Well, said the customer, “it’s the kind and sympathetic one.” Do we receive as we give? Is beauty in the eye of the beholder?
Nearly twenty years ago, there was a British Film on the rounds called “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” It was a popular film, the script written by Richard Curtis. It could be described as a comedy-drama, which told the story of a group of friends in search of love. There was already a deep friendship between them, but their individual journeys in search of a lifelong partner and companion presented many of them with serious problems. Finding the right person, being the right person, and making the commitment involved are tough tasks, as tough as they come.
In the course of many comic episodes, the friends attended various weddings. There were moments of aloneness, sadness and frustration as they reflected on unrequited love, missed opportunities and the fear of being left on the shelf. There was one funeral that they attended, at which a very powerful poem about death was recited. They came to understand, at different levels, the devastation that can come with death, and what a paralysing experience it can be to lose our partner.
The film is light-hearted in many ways, and full of fun and laughter. But all the time, there runs through it this drive towards love and the need to find it. There is always in the background the fear of being left out of life, the fear of being lonely, the fear of being abandoned and forsaken. Nobody wants that to happen to them. Everyone wants to be part of life and to walk in the land of the living.
The prophet Isaiah, in what is recorded in the First Reading, gives everyone hope. The city of Jerusalem had been devastated and left an abandoned ruin. But it is now inhabited again, and the days of sorrow are behind. It is a time for rejoicing. The rebuilding of the city, the restoration of the people, signs of life and prosperity – these all indicate the blessings of God. Life has returned to a broken place. Is there a message for us? Is God telling us that his love will overcome all evil and remove fear? “As the bridegroom rejoices in his bride so will your God rejoice in you.”
At a humble wedding in Cana of Galilee, and at the request of His Mother, Jesus gives a sign to the world. His glory as God’s son is seen in his turning water into wine. The disciples saw this and it strengthened their belief. This was not a mirage, a reflection of their needs. God has come among his people in the person of Jesus Christ, and his power and authority can be witnessed in action. It took the disciples a long time, punctuated by doubts and confusions as well as the devastation of the cross and Calvary, before they could begin to grasp the enormity of the mystery in which they were participating. It is hardly unexpected that we should experience the same trials and difficulties in the course of our journey through life.
The setting and circumstances of this sign are not surprising. A wedding is under way. There is a human need. A mistake was made in calculations during the preparations for a major family event. If the problem was not solved there would be acute embarrassment. It is natural for us to turn to our friends when we need help to get out of a fix. It is not unusual that we should turn to our most powerful friends when we are in deep trouble instead of relying on chance, on our own capacity. Most people’s instincts tell them when it is time to turn to God, and to place ourselves in the hands of his power and love.
When we feel abandoned and forsaken, and when we experience anxiety about our safety and happiness, the faith of the Church can come to our aid. The Lord who has died has risen again and has invited us to knock if we are in need. God in Jesus Christ is at our disposal, and often puts his power to work through the gifts and faith of the people of God. We can come to the help of one another in our journey through life and allow God’s Spirit to spread God’s gifts among all for the welfare of all. Our love brings warmth to others and removes the fears that paralyse the spirit. By God’s grace we can all share in turning the water of distress into the wine of joy. As William Wordsworth reminds us “the best parts of a good man’s life are the little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” Or as Paul puts it to the people of Corinth, “there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people; it is the same God who is working in all of them.”
+Liam S. MacDaid
20 January 2013