God is Love...

Catechetical Center of Bangkok

2nd Sunday of the Year
Isaiah 62:1–5; 1 Corinthians 12:4–11; John 2:1–12

Powerful guest
When you invite Jesus into your home, you’re never quite the same again.

Some time ago a woman wrote a fascinating article about redecorating her family’s home. Things went well until her husband overruled the interior decorator and hung a 16- by 20-inch picture of Jesus in the most prominent place in the home.

The woman tried to get her husband to reconsider, but
he absolutely refused. Then, during a discussion with him,
she recalled these words of Jesus:

“If anyone declares publicly that he belongs to me, I will do the same for him before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:32

That settled it. Her husband won.

Now she says she’s glad her husband won, because she
thinks that picture of Jesus has had a remarkable effect
on her family and on visitors.

For example, one day a stranger kept glancing at the picture.
Finally, he turned to the woman and said, “You know, that Jesus doesn’t look at you; he looks right through you.’’

And one night a friend sitting across from the picture said, “I always feel so peaceful in your home.’’

The picture’s most striking impact, however, is on conversations, says the woman. It inevitably draws
them to a higher level.
The woman ends her article by saying she knows people will smile at her remarks and even ridicule them, but she doesn’t care. “This much I know,’’ she says. “When you invite Jesus into your home, you’re never the same again.’’

The young couple in today’s gospel would agree with that woman. They invited Jesus into their home, and he worked his first miracle there.

And they were never the same again.

It’s probably no coincidence that this first miracle of Jesus,
turning water into wine, foreshadowed his final miracle,
turning wine into his own blood.

It’s probably no coincidence either that Jesus also worked that miracle in a home, the home of Mark. (Mark 14:12–15, Acts of the Apostles 12:12)

And like the Cana couple, John Mark and his family were never the same again.

Alittle-recognized fact about Jesus is how often he worked miracles in people’s homes.

For example, when Peter first invited Jesus to his home,
the first thing Jesus did was to cure Peter’s mother-in-law. (Mark 1:31)

And when Jairus, the synagogue official, invited Jesus to his home, the first thing Jesus did was to restore life to Jairus’ daughter, who had just died. (Mark 5:41)

Neither Peter’s family nor Jairus’ family was ever the same again.
Then there was a leading Pharisee. He invited Jesus to dinner one day, and one of the first things Jesus did was to cure a sick man at his house. (Luke 14:4)

And who can forget Zacchaeus, the cutthroat tax collector
of Jericho? He also welcomed Jesus into his house one day.
The two talked for a while, and Zacchaeus ended up giving half his belongings to the poor and paying back to those he cheated four times what he took. (Luke 19:8)

And, finally, there’s that moving episode at Emmaus on Easter night.

Two men invited Jesus to supper, although at the time
they didn’t know it was Jesus. Jesus ended up celebrating with them the very first Eucharist after the Last Supper.
           (Luke 24:30)

These are just a few examples of how people invited Jesus into their homes and were never the same again.

These examples make us ask ourselves, “Have we ever consciously invited Jesus into our home, in a practical way?’’

For example, if an interior decorator checked over our home,
would he or she see any evidence on our walls that our family follows Jesus? Or would the decorator merely say, “I see your kids are big followers of Bruce Springsteen and Michael Jackson.’’

Or suppose our daughter brought home a friend from college.
Would that friend say to her on their return trip to college:

“Your family is really Christian. I can’t remember praying at meals as I prayed in your home. And I can’t remember seeing such love as I saw in your home.
“And you know there was something else. I can’t remember hearing your family put anyone down.’’

That college friend would never be the same again, because she had met Jesus in our home.

Inviting Jesus into our home could be the most important thing we ever do.

And the way we do it can range all the way from
concretizing Jesus’ presence with a crucifix  or
picture to praying reverently at meals.

Or it can range all the way from treating each other with genuine love to never speaking ill of others.

Once we invite Jesus into our home, we can expect something special. Jesus never visits a home without doing something special.

This is one of the messages in today’s gospel.

It’s a message we all need to hear. It’s a message we all need to take to heart. It’s a message that could change our family life together. In the words of the woman who wrote the article:

“This much I know. When you invite Jesus into your home,
you’re never the same again.’’

Jesus himself makes this promise to families in the Book of Revelation:

“Listen! I stand at the door and knock;if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into his house and eat with him,
and he will eat with me.” Revelation 3:20

Let’s close with a prayer:

Lord Jesus, come into our home and bless it.

Bless the doors of our home. May they always be open to the stranger and the lonely. Bless the rooms of our home. May they always be filled with your presence.

Above all, bless each member of our family.

May their minds be ever open to your word. May their hands
be ever outstretched to the needy. And may their hearts  be ever turned toward you.
Series II
2nd Sunday of the Year
Isaiah 62:1–5; 1 Corinthians 12:4–11; John 2:1–12

Last words
Mary’s last words urge us to do what Jesus tells us to do.

Every once in a while a newspaper prints a list of famous people in history and the last words they spoke just before they died.

Sometimes these last words are very ordinary. You and I might have said them ourselves.

For example, the last words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were, “I have a terrible headache.’’

And the last words of Washington Irving, the author, were,
“Well, I must arrange my pillow for another weary night!
When will this end?’’

On the other hand, the dying words of some famous people
sound almost like lines from a stage play.

For example, Florenz Ziegfeld, the theatrical producer, said these last words in a state of delirium: “Lights! Ready for the last finale! . . . The show looks good.’’

And Ludwig van Beethoven, the famous musical composer,
said to those gathered around his deathbed, “Applaud, friends, the comedy is over.’’

Finally, the last words of some people show a deep concern
for what will happen to them in the afterlife.
The last words of the British naval officer Horatio Nelson were, “Thank God I have done my duty!’’

And the last words of the American poet Edgar Allan Poe were, “Lord, help my poor soul.’’

Today’s gospel preserves the last spoken words of Mary
that we find in the New Testament.

After today’s gospel we never hear Mary quoted again.
Of course, she said other things, but the gospel does not record them for us.

What are the last spoken words of Mary that we find in today’s gospel? They are just five words. Mary says, “Do whatever [Jesus] tells you.’’

Mary spoke these words to the waiters when the wine ran out.
But they are also directed, in a true sense, to every Christian who ever lived or will live: “Do whatever [Jesus] tells you.’’

Mary’s words contain the same important message that
God the Father spoke to Peter, James, and John when they were praying on the mountain with Jesus. Luke describes the episode this way:

Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up a hill to pray. While he was praying, his face changed its appearance,
and his clothes became dazzling white. . . . A voice said from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen listen to him!” Luke 9:28–29, 35

“Listen to him’’ that is, “Do whatever he tells you.’’

If God asked us, “Are you listening to my Son,’’ or “Are you doing what my Son told you to do,’’ we’d probably say,  “But Jesus said so many things. What  particular teaching  do  you have in mind?’’

God would probably answer us, “I have in mind two teachings
that Jesus repeated over and over: Love one another as I love you, and forgive one another as I forgive you.’’

We are all familiar with Jesus’ teaching to love one another as he loves us. (John 15:12) But we are, perhaps, less familiar with his teaching to forgive one another as he forgives us. (Matthew 6:12–14)

Therefore, let’s take a brief look at it.
In 1975 a 17-year-old boy named Charles Rumbaugh
escaped from a mental hospital in Texas, where he was
being treated for manic depression. Shortly after his
escape, he robbed a jewelry store and killed its owner in
an unexpected shoot-out. He was caught and sentenced to death.

When he arrived on death row, the officer in charge told him,
“If you give us any trouble, we’ll kill you in whatever way we want to. Nobody’s going to care enough  to do anything about it.’’

During the next ten years on death row, Rumbaugh says
he was beaten and subjected “to numerous ingenious little punishments.’’ Understandably, with this kind of treatment
he built up a lot of hate in his heart.
Finally, the day drew near for his execution at Huntsville, Texas. As it did, he told a friend:

“There comes a time when we have to return good for evil,
no matter what the price. Right now, I can’t think of a single reason for liking anybody in the whole state of Texas, but I know that to carry around a lot of hate in my heart isn’t what Christ wants me to do.’’

Then he asked his friend to pray that he would rise above
his bitterness and forgive those who sinned against him, as
he hoped those he had sinned against would forgive him.

On the night of September 11, 1985, he was strapped down for execution.

They do this in such a way that the arms are outstretched to form a cross.

When everything was ready for giving the lethal injection,
the warden said to him, “Do you want to make any final statement?’’

Rumbaugh paused and then said to those present, “You may not forgive me my transgressions against you, but I forgive you your transgressions against me.’’

Someone who was present and heard the young man utter these words of forgiveness was struck by the similarity between Jesus who with arms outstretched on the cross
forgave his executioners and the young man with arms also outstretched who forgave his executioners.

This story illustrates in a dramatic way Jesus’ teaching
that we should forgive others as he forgives us.

It goes a step further.

It illustrates that forgiving others is not always easy. To use the words of Mary in today’s gospel, it is not always easy to
“do whatever [Jesus] tells you.’’

When this is the case, we must do what the young prisoner did.
We must pray for the power to do what Jesus tells us to do: to forgive. And if we do, God will give us the grace to forgive.

In return for forgiving others, we will be able to die as the young man did, confident that God “will forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’’
Series III
2nd Sunday of the Year
Isaiah 62:1–5, 1 Corinthians 12:4–11, John 2:1–11

God-given gifts
God’s gifts are given to us for the benefit of all.

Jesus performed this first miracle in Cana in Galilee. John 2:11

James D.Wolfensohn has served as chairman of the board of directors for some of the top organizations and companies of our nation.

He has also received honorary degrees from a number of
the top universities in the nation and has twice been elected
president of the 182-nation World Bank. So when he speaks,
he knows what he is talking about;and when he speaks, people listen.

Recently Wolfensohn wrote an article entitled “A Call to Global Action.” America magazine (January 6, 2001)

In it, he literally pleads with the 182 nations of the World Bank to begin working together “to give the poorest people
of the world a real hope for a better life.”

To illustrate the urgency, he pointed out something that I found incredible. If it hadn’t come from him, I would have questioned it. He said that “three billion people half the world’s population live on less than $2 a day.” But the poverty he is talking about is not found just in poorer nations. Take our own nation.
In 2000 the U.S. Census Bureau filed a disturbing report, stating that the average income of the top 20 percent in our nation is over $100,000, while the bottom 20 percent is less than $8,000. The report went on to say:

More than 38 million Americans roughly one in every seven live in conditions that the government officially recognizes as impoverished. Incredibly, more than 15 million of these individuals are children. Reported in Joseph Hacala, S.J., “In All Things,” (June 2000)

Finally, the U.S. Conference of Mayors filed this disturbing report about the homeless in their cities. They said the fastest growing segment of the homeless population in their cities  is families with children.

As a result, 25 percent of the homeless population is now made up of children under the age of 18.

Commenting on all this, the U.S. Catholic bishops said this
in Economic Justice for All:

The measure of our economy is not only what it produces,
but also how that economy touches human life, whether it protects it or undermines it.

This brings us to today’s readings, especially the Gospel reading and the second reading.

The Gospel reading describes the plight of a young couple
who were apparently too impoverished to supply enough
wine for their guests.

In their moment of need Mary and Jesus came to the rescue,
with the first miracle of Jesus’ ministry.

And in the second reading, Saint Paul tells us that we all have God-given gifts. He goes on to say that these gifts have not been given to us simply for our own personal use, but for the benefit of all.

That brings us back to Wolfensohn’s “A Call to Global Action.”

As we study it more closely, we see that it is basically a declaration of war on those things in our society that
destroy human dignity and human life. He could have
just as well entitled it “A Call to Life.”

In 1993 Pope John Paul II presided over World Youth
Day in Denver. Amazed by the turnout of young people,
the secular press called the event a “Catholic Woodstock.”

The Holy Father told the near-million young people that
as a group they had special gifts that our society needs
badly: idealism, energy, enthusiasm, courage.

He challenged them to imitate Mary and Joseph in today’s Gospel and use their gifts for the benefit of all.

Specifically, he challenged them to use their gifts of idealism, enthusiasm, and courage to do everything they could  to elevate human dignity and human life.

Today some commentators credit the pope’s challenge
with bringing about a “turning point” in the life of the Catholic Church in America. How so?

It has mobilized an army of dedicated Catholic young people
who are following up on his challenge.

They are devoting their energy and enthusiasm in many ways
to elevate the dignity of the human person and of human life.

And one of key ways they are doing this is by speaking out
for the largest, voiceless minority in the world: the unborn.

Commenting on their involvement in the pro-life movement, one magazine said of these committed young people: “They have given the movement a new energy, a new optimism,
and a youthful face.” Columbia (January 2001)

As a result, one observer did not hesitate to say: “I do think there is a big shift out there and the momentum is now with the pro-life side.” Ibid.

Let us conclude with two reflections relating to what we have been saying. The first is by Robert F. Kennedy. He said:

Few of us have the greatness to bend history itself.

But each one of us can work to change a small portion of events,
and in the sum total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.

The second reflection is from John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address. In it, he sounded a “call to action,” similar to the one Wolfensohn sounded in his article. He concluded his address
with these words:

With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking God’s blessing . . . knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.