I recall from many decades ago a description of theology as faith in search of understanding. The definition has served me well. Indeed, the Christian faith is a search for...
Ready or not, the ordinary time of the liturgical year is with us – but only for four weeks! Ash Wednesday is early this year – 13 February – and Easter Sunday falls on 31 March. So brace yourselves – we have these few weeks to get rid of a little Christmas lethargy before facing the Lenten Gymnasium. It is not a good idea to retain the aftertaste of turkey and Christmas pudding for too long!
Indeed, as we ended last week, there is a need for us to take on these four ordinary Sundays, and all four scripture extracts allocated for THIS SUNDAY not only confirm last weeks reflection but also provide an excellent impetus for the needed flexing of muscles.
ISAIAH 62: 1 – 5
PSALM 96 (or 95)
1 CORINTHIANS 12: 4 – 11
JOHN 2: 1 – 11
Last week we emphasised that we are the beloved of our God! This Sunday, Isaiah tells us that the Fathers relationship to us is “as a bridegroom rejoicing over the bride.” Then, we said we would have the Lords approval, and the prophet proclaims that we “shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord.” Finally, our previous reflection emphasised the need for us to become public and be pro-active. The Old Testament reading records that“I will not keep silent … I will not rest.”
All of this, of course, applied principally to Jesus Christ, and provided a splendid introduction to the miracle at Cana. Our Gospel record of this event must be heard and reflected on against the three quotes from Isaiah as mentioned above. The sign Jesus gave at the wedding was a sign that he was, as mentioned last week, ready to take on his mission and ministry – he was ready to start on the Fathers plan, and he would embark upon it as a single-minded individual. Nobody, (not even his mother) would be able to deflect him from this purpose. He would not keep silent, would not rest, and would become something very special in the hand of God, and so merit the Fathers pleasure.
However, two other matters from our Gospel reading this Sunday are of basic importance.Firstly, the miracle was a sign that the age of abundance had arrived. The Old Testament in general looks forward to the time when the milk and honey flow, the vines produce wonderful harvests, and the wine is both plenty and of outstanding quality. Secondly, we should not overlook the fact that the wine came from ordinary water – not from grapes and a winepress! The mission and ministry of Jesus consistently uses the ordinary, the natural, the human, and the basic things of earth to achieve powerful teaching and healing ends: water, dust, spittle, bread, wine, fallible men and women, seeds, and produce. Therein lies an essential message.
We do not need to be extraordinary to take on our own ministry of discipleship. We need, however, to use what we do have – as little, in our eyes, as that may appear to be. In addition, the ordinariness of our gifts and talents can produce some sort of abundance – even when we are unaware of results. There is no doubt that little actions and efforts do, indeed, achieve results – often far more than we ever intended …. but these must be done as an integral and essential part of our taking on. As I have mentioned so often before: the footprints of life should be our footprints of faith – and the footprints of our faith must be the footprints of our living.
The Psalm extract communicates the concept of the praise we lift to God. Worship is expressly mentioned, but we should never fall into the trap of confining our praise to the words we speak in both public and private worship. These are an essential element of true discipleship but the ministry component of our Gospel following must include the actions of our outreach. Praise must be DONE, not only said. Proclamation enjoys a valuable effectiveness when it is communicated in and through ministry. If I want to be priest, husband, wife, father or mother, then I must DO these ministries.
All that has been said is underpinned by the NEW TESTAMENT READING. “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone… the same Spirit who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”
We cannot escape that each one of us has a gift, are expected to provide a service, and towork at this as an individual disciple. THIS IS MINISTRY! The Gospel tells us that the“disciples came to believe.” We, too, must come to believe that we are capable of giving signs.
It is in the giving of signs that the disciple TAKES IT ON!