When I was a child, I was rather outspoken; you might even say, mouthy. Hard to believe, isn’t it? 😊 If something didn’t seem right to me, I had no hesitation in saying so-outside of school, that is. I went to Catholic school-no way was I ever going to take on a nun!
Maybe that’s why God called me to the priesthood: if I’m going to mouth off, might as well be for Him!
So I can relate to the words of the Prophet Isaiah we just heard: “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent! For Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet!” Good old Isaiah, a man after my own heart!
Moreso he was man on a mission in one of the darkest periods of his nation’s history: the infamous Babylonian Captivity. His mission: to restore faith & hope among a devastated and enslaved people who had survived the invasion of their country, the slaughter of family & friends, the sacking of its political & religious capital, & the destruction of the magnificent Temple built by King Solomon in their glory years.
We must not underestimate the effect this had on the children of Israel. For them, the Temple was not just a place of worship but God’s actual earthly dwelling. That being the case, how could the All-Powerful allow it to be destroyed?
In fact, prophets had been warning for years that God would withdraw not only His favor but His very presence among His people as punishment for their unfaithfulness to Him and their immoral behavior toward each other. Without that divine presence the Temple was just another building, and therefore could be, as it was, burned and smashed to pieces.
Today’s reading is Isaiah’s prophecy that the worst was over. They had suffered enough. God was about to deliver them from this calamity. “No longer shall men call you ‘forsaken’ and your land ‘desolate.’” God was still their God; they were still His people.
Now He would release and restore them to their homeland. Their nation would be rebuilt and its people espoused, married, to Him, as a bride married to her groom.
How appropriate, then, for Jesus to begin revealing His true self by performing His first miracle at a wedding! In those days, wedding celebrations lasted for several days, and to run out of wine would be terribly embarrassing. But that was His Mother’s worry.
In changing water into wine, Jesus revealed power over creation itself, something He would do again and again. Now His disciples could begin to understand that the man they were following was more than just another wandering holy man; more than even a prophet; more than any man.
As they looked in amazement at each other, we can almost hear them thinking: “Who is this that He can change water into wine?”
What does His Mother have to say about all this? “Do whatever He tells you.” This is her word not just to the headwaiter, but to Her Son’s disciples, including all of us. It is her word to politicians and pastors, cops and criminals, parents and teachers, lawyers and laborers, doctors and nurses, bankers and bakers and business-makers.
It is her word to racial and religious bigots; to pregnant women, the men who fathered the life within them, and the health care professionals who are called to care for them, not kill that life within.
It is her word to the people who dare call themselves “Christian” yet remain divided among themselves, often competing and sometimes even condemning each other rather than cooperating with each other.
It is her word to a society that in many ways has lost its moral compass, like Israel before its conquest and fall. Have we not as a society wandered away from the Lord and His commandments to the point it’s illegal to post them anywhere in public space?
“Do whatever He tells you.” And what is it He tells us? St. Paul answers this question for us today…
Use the gifts we have been given as Jesus used His, not for selfish gain, not to toot our own horns or stroke our egos, but for the common good as signs that the Kingdom of God is here; that God truly dwells not just among us, but within us!
Many will do just that tomorrow: use their gifts on a day of service in honor of Martin Luther King, one of God’s truly devoted servants who sought to more finely-tune this nation’s moral compass, and extend its promise of liberty, justice, and equality to those it had so hypocritically denied, things we declare to be “unalienable truths.”
What a fitting tribute to a man who gave his life to see a dream come true! But using our gifts to “do what He tells us” is something true disciples of Jesus do on more than just 1 day of the year. Every day would be more like it!
Some may ask, “Why, what’s in it for me?” Right, the almighty ME!
If we do whatever He tells us, and use our gifts for the common good, what’s in it for us is a world relieved of pain/fear, violence/destruction; where abundance is shared with the destitute; where the Divine Law, “Love one another” exceeds all others; where people look out for each other, help each other, take care of each other; a world where God is happy to dwell among us.
As in the days of Isaiah, this is the time for the world to renew its marriage to its creator. For His sake and our own, let us not be silent! But with bold words and even bolder deeds, let us re-build the city of God!