2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Jude Shrine, Baltimore
Jan. 20, 2019
First let me say how happy I am to return to St. Jude Shrine to offer Sunday Mass, and to thank you, Fr. Sal, as well as the Pallottine Fathers for your service to this Shrine, this beacon of hope in our city. Let me also thank all of you who are part of the St. Jude Shrine community. St. Jude’s, of course, welcomes many pilgrims who come here for Mass, Confession, and devotional prayers. They come seeking the powerful intercession of St. Jude amid the difficulties of life, all those many things that are so difficult to resolve or even to cope with.
Indeed the St. Jude Shrine is a holy place where prayers of petition and intercessory prayers are offered to God. In a prayer of petition we present to God our own special needs and intentions. Often these are very personal – for example – seeking God’s help in overcoming a sinful habit or in mending a broken marriage. When we present to God the needs of others, we offer a prayer of intercession. We intercede for those we love and those who have asked our prayers. And sometimes we simply pray for people who are in need – people all around us who are homeless, unemployed, addicted to drugs, victims of racism, violence and so much more. And these days we pray in a special way for the Church herself, asking that it be healed, purified, and strengthened in this time of crisis. As we offer those prayers for ourselves and for others, we enlist the intercession of the saints, the friends of God, asking them to pray with us and for us in our time of need.
The Wedding Feast
In today’s Gospel we see the power of intercessory prayer. A young couple in Cana of Galilee has invited their friends to their wedding feast. Among the guests were Jesus and his disciples, and Jesus’ mother, Mary. They came to the celebration to share that couple’s hopes and dreams as they began their wedded life together. But things weren’t off to a good start; the couple was running out of wine. In those days, wine was not a luxury but a part of the wedding ritual. As a result, that couple felt keenly embarrassed over the shortage of wine. Notice, however, that it is Mary, Jesus’ mother, who first notices the couple’s distress and resolves to do something about it. So Mary engages in what we would call intercessory prayer; she becomes the go-between, the mediatrix, between that couple in their need, and her Son, Jesus. On behalf of the newlyweds, Mary says to her Son, “They have no wine.”
Now, we might think Jesus would snap his fingers and just take of the situation, but notice what Jesus says to his Mother; he says: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” Hearing these words we might imagine that Jesus is balking at Mary’s request; but in fact Jesus is manifesting the ultimate importance of what Mary has asked. For Jesus was present at the wedding feast of Cana as the Redeemer of humanity. He was present as the Incarnate Son of God sent into the world to bring about a new covenant of love and mercy between God and humanity, if you will, a new “marriage” between God and his People. The miracles Jesus would perform were not merely for sake of working wonders but rather for the sake of manifesting and fulfilling his mission to redeem the world of sin and to establish the New Covenant in his Blood. So, to sum up: Jesus is really asking his Mother how her concern about the lack of wine at a wedding and her request for a miracle fits into to his mission, his saving mission, that will culminate in the hour of his death and resurrection.
Mary, the model disciple, understands Jesus’ response. So she instructs the waiters at the wedding feast, “Do whatever he tells you” – just as she instructs us when we are at Mass or reading Scripture or praying to listen to her Son and to do whatever he tells us to do. In other words, if we want to be a part of the marriage between God and his people, we must listen to the Lord’s words and take them to heart, and we must be ready to do all that the Lord will ask of us as his disciples. And when we listen carefully and pray over God’s Word, then we will always ask God to give to us and to our loved ones whatever is best for us, whatever is best for our salvation, whatever will help us be a part of God’s new and eternal covenant with his people. This is how Mary prayed to her Son and this is why Mary’s prayer was heard. Accordingly, Jesus changed water into wine, a sign, a miracle that not only helped a couple in their need but also foretold how Jesus would touch our lives and give us what we need most: to be his disciples and to be part of the Church, his Bride, redeemed by his Blood.
The New Covenant in Jesus’ Blood
When we mediate on this beautiful passage in the Gospel, we can only marvel at how much God loves us. For at this very moment we find ourselves, not at the wedding feast of Cana but at Mass in which we celebrate anew the marriage covenant between God and his People, the Church, of which we are members. At every Mass, bread becomes the Body of Christ and wine is transformed into the Blood of Christ so that you and I might share in Jesus’ sacrifice of love by which our sins are forgiven.
Let us listen again to words of Consecration pronounced by the priest over the wine: “This is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” No longer is water turned into wine but wine becomes the Blood of Christ – the Blood of Christ shed for us on the Cross to bring about our salvation. As St. Paul reminds us, “He who did not spare his only Son but handed him over for us, how will he not give us everything else along with him?” (Rom. 8:32)
What’s more, dear friends, since every Mass is, in a sense, a wedding feast, we, like the newly married couple in Cana of Galilee are accompanied by the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She is present with us at every Mass, praying with us and praying for us – reminding us to listen to the words of her Son, reminding us, as did St. Paul, that if her Son gave up his life out of love for us – will he not give us whatever we need to become holy in the sight of God?
One final note. We may wonder why it is St. Jude is so powerful in his intercession for us, so helpful to us in the most difficult moments of our lives. One detail in today’s Gospel might help us better understand St. Jude’s intercession. It tells us in addition to Jesus and Mary, the Lord’s disciples were also guests at the wedding feast of Cana, among them, of course, St. Jude. I’m going to guess that St. Jude payed special attention to Mary as she went to Jesus to intercede for that couple in their distress. He saw how Jesus fully and completely answered Mary’s prayers on behalf of that young couple and their household.
So now St. Jude, an apostle of the Lord and a martyr, also urges us to listen to Lord’s teaching, to strive in God’s grace to live as followers of Jesus, and to find our strength and joy in the wedding feast of the Eucharist. Like Mary, St. Jude wants nothing more than that we be redeemed in the Blood of Christ so that whatever we ask for will be for our ultimate good and for the good of those for whom we pray.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us! St. Jude, pray for us!