Did you notice the Christmas crèche is back in storage, and the poinsettias and the trees and lights are gone. We are now in “Ordinary time.”
The chasuble is green. “Green” symbolizes renewal, hope, growth in our life with God. And that's what ordinary time is all-about.
In light of the Gospel wedding theme, I read about a husband and wife who had a turbulent 50 years together. The husband would shout off and on: "When I die, I will dig my way out of the grave and haunt you for the rest of your life!" After he died, neighbors asked the wife: "Aren't you afraid your husband will dig his way out of the grave?" She nonchalantly replied, "no. I had him buried upside down. And I know he won't ask for directions."
The word of God takes us back in our imaginations to the sixth century before Jesus (the 500s), to the city of Jerusalem.
Today we know certain cities by nicknames. New York is the Big Apple; Chicago is the Windy City; Paris is the City of Lights. Jerusalem was once known as the City of Lights, because it stood on a hill and its surrounding walls were lit with torches during Jewish festivals.
The author here describes Jerusalem as “desolate” and “forsaken.” Why? Ancient Babylonia had reduced the city to rubble.
But one day, the author writes, in the not-too-distant future, Jerusalem will rise up out of its ashes, and God will again delight in Jerusalem and its people. Yes, God will turn tragedy into triumph. This passage invites us to ask, does God delight in us? Do we reveal the glory or presence of God in our everyday attitudes and behaviors?
Paul, in his letter to the Christian community at Corinth, notes the many gifts we have. These gifts are for the common good, for building up community. Yes, people working together can perform extraordinary deeds. Together, we can spark each other’s creativity, motivate one another, magnify each other’s efforts and abilities. Working together can accomplish so much.
For example, when I enter an airplane, I occasionally think about the hundreds of people who make it fly.
There are pilots and flight attendants, schedulers, weather staff, cleaning people, mechanics, dispatchers planning routes, traffic controllers, inspectors ensuring safety, engineers, manufacturers tracking the quality of the planes, and the many other people who concentrate on making our travel safe.
An airplane involves teamwork. So too does our global Catholic community. And our legislators might benefit from St. Paul’s advice to seek the common good in their deliberations.
In the Gospel according to John, the author begins the so-called Book of Signs: seven signs Jesus works that reveal his true identity. Jesus is indeed one with God; in fact, he is God. The first sign Jesus worked was in the town of Cana in the region of Galilee.
Now there are different levels of meaning in this story, as in many Gospel stories.
On one level, Jesus, his mother, and the disciples have simply been invited to a local wedding. Mary, in some ways, could pass for a wedding planner. And there’s an embarrassing shortage of wine. Mary may have even said to the waiters something like, “See that handsome man there? That’s my son. Do what he says.”
On another level, Mary appears as our mediator, interceding with her Son on our behalf. And that is why our Catholic Christian heritage gives a special place of honor to Mary.
On a third level, the water made wine symbolizes the breaking in of the kingdom of God—the symbolic wedding banquet at the end-time with choice wines and delicious food. And on a fourth level, this first sign is one of seven in which the author points to Jesus as “the revelation” of God to us.
The point is there can be many levels of meaning in scripture. In light of the wedding at Cana, I would like to reflect briefly upon the sacrament of marriage.
Now there are all kinds of literature about relationships, self-improvement, and so on. Often people are looking for the perfect this or that and forget that life generally is not perfect and often we have to muddle through things and simply do the best we can.
In fact, I doubt there’s such a thing as the perfect marriage. Marriage is a work in progress.
Marriages can be described in three stages: first the honeymoon; then disillusionment (i.e., he/she is not precisely the person I thought); and then the third stage, where the initial partnership can either break up or become true love. Their relationship can truly become a covenant where husband and wife live for each other, for God, and for others (e.g., their children). And that is true love.
True love can emerge only if we forgive, work out compromises (in other words, be flexible), disagree without being disagreeable, compliment each other regularly, accentuate the good (not the negative), clarify our essential or core values, accept differences (our way isn’t the only way), seek a balance between how much is enough and how much is too much (for example, a tightwad/spendthrift combo is a challenge), and communicate regularly.
And don’t let children eclipse our primary vocation: to love one another. And try to find the balance between work, family, and personal time.
When sorting through an argument, always distinguish between behavior and negative judgments about that behavior—for example, you’re late for the birthday party (behavior) versus you’re the most inconsiderate person I know (negative judgment). Maybe there was an accident on the highway or something else. Yes, focus on behavior and avoid negative judgments.
Calling people names when we disagree will not bring us closer. As with most things in life, we must work at good relationships—sticking together in tough times and with confidence that times will get better and we’ll reemerge closer.
I like the prayer that says live one day at a time; enjoy one moment at a time; trust that God will make all things right if I try, as best I can, to do the right thing. Above all, make room for God in our relationships.
The wedding of Cana invites not only husbands and wives but all of us to reflect upon our relationships with one another. Married couples especially might ask, how can I keep that initial glow alive? Yes, with the friend, soulmate and partner for whom I live, with whom I laugh, the one I love above all else on earth, how can we continue to cherish and support and re-energize our relationship?