By Bishop David McGough
Second Sunday of the Year Isaiah 62:1-5; 1 Cor 12:4-11; John 2:1-12
The conspiracy of recession and the deepest freeze for a generation are scarcely the recipe for rejoicing. The spirit, no less than the weather, has its seasons. At times we can feel isolated, frozen in a gloom far removed from the warmth and light of God’s presence.
Long ago the prophet Isaiah spoke to the bleakness of Israel’s desolation. When Israel seemed incapable of hope a loving God refused to be silent, would not grow weary until he had summoned her from the depths of blighted hope.
“No longer are you to be named ‘Forsaken,’ nor your land ‘Abandoned,’ but you shall be called ‘My Delight’ and your land ‘The Wedded;’ for the Lord takes delight in you.” It is impossible to remain unmoved by these words, words that speak with the urgency of young love, that describe a God who rejoices in us as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride. Let us allow the insistence of God’s love to rekindle within us the fervour of his presence. It is such love that calls us by a new name, gives us our deepest identity and brings joy to lives that have grown tepid. At the beginning of a new year, with varying success, we resolve to change our lives. Our proposals will achieve very little unless we first listen, allowing the Word of God to transform our inmost being. Only then can we become what Isaiah describes as a crown of splendour in the hand of the Lord.
St John’s account of the Wedding Feast at Cana beautifully describes the transformation that takes place as we come into the presence of the Lord. The details of this well-loved passage are familiar. The celebration of marriage is a universal sign of hope. The wine that fails, that cannot be sustained, expresses the fragility of our hopes. The action taken by Jesus, the turning of water into wine, was more than a kindness to hide the embarrassment of the bride and groom. It was, in the words of St John, a sign that directs our thoughts to Christ’s transforming presence. As sinners, we cannot sustain the hope that is within us. Like the wine at the wedding feast, our best intentions are soon depleted. In the presence of Christ our old selves, the stone jars filled with water, become the wine, the joy that welcomes the kingdom of God. Mary’s instruction to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you,” applies to us. When we turn to God in obedient expectation our lives become the wine of his presence. St John records that at Cana Jesus let his glory be seen, that his disciples believed in him. Let us believe that Christ transforms our disappointed hopes into the abundance of his presence.
St Paul described this transformation as the abundance of the Spirit. “There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always the same Lord.” At the beginning of a new year let us acknowledge the many ordinary gifts that are transformed by the Spirit. Let us believe that our joy can proclaim the Good News, that our concern can become the compassion of Christ, our forgiveness the sign of his reconciliation. Let us surrender this new year to the Spirit, who distributes different gifts to different people just as he chooses.