God's Amazing Grace - Second Sunday Ordinary Time (C)

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We begin Ordinary Time in the year of our Lord 2016 with a reading from St John's Gospel. During this year we will be reading from the Gospel of St Luke, but the Church wants to give us this story of the Wedding Feast at Cana.

The Gospel reading ends by St John saying that this was the first of the signs that Jesus worked. This is an unusual saying: why did he not say this is the first of the miracles that Jesus worked?

St John describes the miracles of Jesus as "signs". Why does he use this word? For St John a miracle is a sign of something more significant.

What do the miracles of Jesus reveal? Certainly the power of God. Miracles are wonderful signs of God's power at work. How often do we ask God for a miracle? We are faced with a situation which is beyond us. We can do nothing. We pray asking for a miracle. It happens and we praise God because he has revealed his power.

However miracles are not just signs of power. They are signs of the love and mercy of God. God answered our prayers because of his love for us and his abiding mercy towards humanity. When our prayers are heard and we experience a miracle we know that God is not only all powerful but that he deeply loves us. In fact a miracle is remarkable because it reveals that God is interested in us personally. His love is not just for humanity as a whole, but it is a love for us personally. He has heard our cries and come to our aid.

Miracles reveal the love and mercy of God above all else. We cannot but give God praise and glory when we witness our prayers being answered.

The miracle at Cana is a particularly important sign and this is why St John wanted to give it in his Gospel. There are a number of notable aspects to this miracle.

The first one is that the miracle is effected because of the intervention of the Mother of Jesus. In most of the miracles the person themselves asks for help - like the leper, or the blind man, or the mother of a child. In this case it is not the bridegroom or the bride's father who approaches Jesus, but his own mother. She is the one who notices that the wine has run out. She is aware of the embarrassment that this will cause. She knows that her son has the power to help, so she approaches him.

Jesus is reluctant. As he says it is not the right moment for him to show forth his power. He has not yet begun his public ministry. Indeed, he wants his preaching to be foremost. He never wanted to be known simply as a miracle worker - that is why he often told the person healed to say nothing about what had happened.

However, it was his mother who asked and so he obliges. What we Catholics know so well is that we can approach the Mother of Jesus with our problems and our needs. We know that she is a mother first and foremost. She wants to look after her children. So we know that we can ask our Blessed Mother to ask her Son. This gospel teaches us that Jesus would not refuse the request of his mother.

The second interesting aspect to this miracle is that it occurred at a wedding. Indeed it was helping to provide more wine. It was not for a healing from sickness or some other major human need. It was to help out a couple at their wedding.

This is an important point. Jesus wants to help this couple begin their married life without the embarrassment of running out of wine. Jesus is concerned about the needs of the couple. He wants to assist this newly married couple.

Later in the Gospel Jesus will speak about God's plan for marriage. He teaches that this is what God intended for human life - that a man would leave his father and mother and join himself to his wife and the two would become one. Marriage is essential to God's plan for human life. Jesus quotes the Book of Genesis where it states that God created human beings male and female. That God intended human beings to have a complementary relationship. That is why marriage is between a man and a woman. Such a union is a complementary union where each completes the other. More Importantly it provides the means by which a new human being comes into the world.

Marriage cannot be between two men or two women. This is not God's plan. Such unions are not complementary. Such unions cannot be open to life.  

God wants to bless marriages. God rejoices in a young couple coming before him as they begin their married life. Marriage is a Sacrament. God pours out his blessing on a couple. This grace of matrimony is not just for the wedding day. It is a grace given for the whole of the life of the marriage. God wants to walk with each couple during their life together. He wants to support and guide them. He wants to assist them realise all that their marriage is meant to be.

Dear married couples God is with you in a profound way in your marriage and in your family. He wants to support you and guide you. Never hesitate to bring your burdens to him. Never hesitate to present the needs of your family to the Lord. Never doubt that the love and mercy of God accompany you throughout the years of your marriage. 

Finally one further point about this miracle. It was the miracle of turn water into wine. In this it is an important sign. It is a sign of the sacramental life. Through the grace of God our lives can be wonderfully transformed. We should never doubt that God wants to do great things in us. 

We sing the song "Amazing Grace". This is a good way to speak about grace. Grace is amazing. God can do amazing things in us. Changing water into wine says that the ordinariness of our lives can become extraordinary. Never doubt what God can do in you.

Today let us celebrate God's great love and mercy. Let us rejoice in the beauty of human love expressed in marriage and family. Let us trust in God's amazing grace.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 17 January 2016