January 2010 Gospel Thoughts

17 January, Wedding feast At Cana

Today’s Gospel Story (John 2:1-11) is the Wedding Feast of Cana. In the Story Mary says to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you”. Having brought Jesus into the world, Mary’s role among us seems to be to point Jesus out in our life, and urge us to “Do whatever he tells you”. In the Story Jesus told the servants to fill the jars with water, something that didn’t make much sense since the party had already started. Then he told them to take some of the water to the chief steward, again something that didn’t make much sense. However they did it, and we know the rest.

Among many other things the Story suggests that Jesus is in everything that comes to us in our ordinary everyday life, that everything in our life is “holy”, important to him, and that everything somehow is an expression of his love and concern for us. His will for us is not a script, but a relationship with him that we work out every day in the choices we make. It might be from time to time on our journey that what Jesus seems to be telling us to do makes no sense in our scheme of things. We know what we want and we have our plans made. We know where we want to be and how to get there. In a moment of our planned activity we might get the sudden urge to do something unplanned, perhaps even senseless and apparently silly. At times it might be that we have to choose to decide to go where he is calling us. At times it might be that we are called joyfully and peacefully accept a reality that is placed in front of us because of things happening outside ourselves – illness or injury, decisions made by others, etc. But if we choose freely and energetically to embrace  what it seems he is asking us to do, what comes is usually beyond what we would expect and, at least in retrospect, better that what we were aiming for.

In the Opening Prayer we pray, “Your watchful care reaches from end to end and orders things in such power that even the tensions and tragedies of sin cannot frustrate your loving plans”. This is the hope in which we live every day, aware in varying degrees that often God’s care happens through us as we respond to life trying to “do whatever he tells you”. We might be approaching awareness that our life has meaning beyond who we are (the image we have of ourselves) and what we do, and this meaning is somehow involved in God. We exist in the here-and-now and yet beyond it, and how we live in the here-and-now has implications beyond it.

We pray, “Help us to embrace your will, and give us the strength to follow your call”. We need his help to reach beyond ourselves, to follow his call when everything in us wants to rebel in anger at the frustrating of our plans, our control, our comfort. We need to open ourselves to grace, to”do whatever he tells you”, to keep from seeing ourselves and life as “full of sound and fury signifying nothing”. In the tensions and tragedies of these days it is difficult to look on life not as absurdity, but as the unfolding of God acting through each of us. God acts in such power that “even the tensions and tragedies of sin cannot frustrate your loving plans”. Every one of us is important and necessary, and every one of our choices is important. Mary is still telling us, “Do whatever he tells you”. And our challenge is to figure out just how to make our choices, how to live every day in loving response so that “your truth may live in our hearts, and reflect peace to those who believe in your love”.

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24 January 2010

In today’s Gospel Story (Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21) Jesus, quoting the passage from Isaiah about bringing glad tidings to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives and recovering of sight to the blind, freeing the oppressed, and says, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing”.

This is a nice Story, the kind we might want to listen to and keep at a distance. Certainly we wouldn’t want to begin living it, hearing glad tidings spoken and true liberty proclaimed to us, recovering our sight or being freed from the oppression in us that we know so well, even though we might not want to admit it. We want to feel in control, not passive. We would not want to live and proclaim these words by how we live with the people in our life – everyone without exception. If we keep Jesus and his Story at a safe distance, we can go on living as if Jesus fulfilled them so we don’t have to.

The Story speaks to us about how we are called to live, not about how we would call others to live. The Story is about us as we read or hear it, not about others, although it is safer and more comfortable to project it on to others than to let it into ourselves. Each of us needs to hear these words in some way in the depth of our hearts. Each of us is poor and needs to hear glad tidings, even as each of us has made others poor so they also need to hear the glad tidings. We are all poor together. Each of us is captive and oppressed in some way, and blind to what is really going on around us as God happens, and we oppress others and hold them captive is ways that only we can as we keep others in the dark by how we live. As each of us is capable of the greatest evil and harm, so we are also capable of the greatest good and healing.

If we would follow Jesus and live as he lived, we would be reaching out in loving openness all the time, not judging and condemning people who don’t think or live as we think they should. We are blind to the magnificent truth of who we really are, and held captive by the many things we have to do and the often tedious relationships we have to navigate. And yet Jesus speaks to us of the powerful kindness of God being fulfilled in our hearing. We are so focused on our faults and weaknesses that we approach being unwilling to know God present and happening in and among us. He doesn’t seem to have the same appreciation of our pressures as we do, even as we do not seem to share his appreciation of the goodness that is in each of us.

The Story mentions that Jesus proclaims “a year of favor to the Lord”. And this is where we are. All of us are favorable to the Lord, and so is the now that we are living. When we feel overwhelmed by our days and what fills them, these words are fulfilled in our hearing. The question is, are we even open to what they are saying to us – not to others, but to us. As with so many of the Stories, what they say to us makes no sense in the turmoil and uncertainty of our days. But they give meaning and context to our days, leading us to look within and beyond ourselves to the Goodness out of which we are continually arising, and does not leave us ever.

Every one of us is of God. Every one of us is a good person just trying to get through the day, and live a good life. We all have been kicked around, and some of us have kicked back. We all need to hear the Story, listen to it, hear the words proclaimed to us, and our turn proclaim them to all around us not in words, but in how we are living.

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