2nd Sun [C] 2007

Fr. Charles Irvin

Isaiah 62:1-5; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-11

St. John’s Gospel opens with a wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. At that banquet Jesus performed His first miracle, changing water into wine. St. John closes his Gospel with another wedding feast, the Last Supper. The bible speaks of it as the “Wedding Feast of the Lamb.” There Jesus changes bread and wine into His Body and Blood. The fact that St. John’s brackets his Gospel with these two weddings feasts and their miracles is not a coincidence. It’s by design.

There is a great struggle going on in our American culture, a struggle over many moral issues found right in the heart of marriage and what it means to be married. Abortion, promiscuity, adultery, premarital sex, the gay lifestyle, contraception, divorce and remarriage, and now cloning — all have some connection with the central meaning, value, and purpose of marriage. Many people who favor these activities are actively seeking to change the meaning of marriage so as to downgrade it and eliminate its central importance in the fabric of our societal relationships.

On one side of this great debate we find the Catholic Church taking the position that certain human actions are in their inner nature wrong. These actions violate the nature and purpose of human activity, and therefore they violate the will of God, the God who created us to act for the common good of our whole human family. The Church teaches that certain human acts are always right, and that certain human acts are always wrong, and this is based on God’s will for the good of our human community as well as on the good of the individuals involved. The degree of good or evil can vary depending on the motives of the persons acting, as well as on special circumstances, but the nature of goodness or the nature of evil remains in the human acts we have deliberately and freely chosen.

There are those who are totally opposed to our Catholic position. They believe that what the individual wants and chooses is more important than the good of the community. The good of the individual, in their thinking, outweighs the common good. The community, they argue, cannot and should not impose its values on individuals. Individual freedom of choice, and individual rights are superior to the rights of any group or society, they claim.

You may want to call one group conservative and the other group liberal. However, those labels are often too simple and just plain don’t fit in some instances. But for convenience here and now I will use the terms “liberal” and “conservative.”

Liberals claim that abortion, marriage and sexual activity are all strictly a matter of private, individual freedom and personal choice, that there are no absolute moral standards, they claim, that can tell us anything is always right or anything is always wrong. They assert that each situation is relative, not absolute, and that only the individual person can decide what is real and what is unreal. This is the core position of those who are called secularists. Secularists see the world and reality as things that exist separate and apart from God or God’s purposes.

Our position is that God gave us life for a purpose, a purpose that has real meaning and real value. Not only that, but God became one of us and entered into our world in order to join us into His purposes and His plans. For Catholics, the world is definitely not separate and apart from God. God’s only begotten Son became incarnate of the Blessed Virgin Mary, thus bonding God and Man together. Because God’s self-expression, His Word, became one of us in our material existence, the world for us is anything but secular. God’s kingdom is to be revealed in it.

Secularists are radical individualists. They decide and choose for themselves. No outside agencies can impose values on the secularist. His or her anthem is Frank Sinatra’s famous song: “I Did It My Way.” Catholics, on the other hand, find themselves by belonging to the People of God, finding their identity along with the meaning and purpose of their lives by belonging to the family of Jesus Christ. Catholics find salvation by belonging; secularists believe in salvation of themselves all by themselves.

I bring all of this up here because in today’s Gospel account we find Jesus at a wedding. His presence blesses the meaning and purpose of marriage. We should pay particular attention to Christ’s response to His mother when He says: “My hour has not yet come.” What was that “hour”? It was none other than that “hour” or that time when, at the end of His life, we find Him at the Last Supper, find Him in agony in the Garden of Gethsemanae followed by His death on the cross. This is the “hour” in which He says: “This is my body, take it; this is my blood, drink it. This is where I marry you in an unbreakable union that nothing, not even sin or death, can overcome. I will love you, no matter what. I am marrying you, and even if you crucify and put me to death, I will come back from the grave to love you, because nothing can make me not love you.” The new and everlasting covenant, you see, is God’s marriage to you and me.

Marriage, you see, is central to what God is all about in Christ’s incarnation. Marriage is all about commitment and belonging. Secular individualism is not. Marriage is all about the generation and fostering of human life. Secular individualism is not. Marriage is all about understanding about what kind of a god God is. Secularism seeks to dismiss God. Marriage is all about living together in a community, a community of committed love and bonded caring forever. Secular individualism is only about caring for the feelings of individuals. Secular individualism tells us: “If it feels good, do it. If it doesn’t feel good, dump it or kill it.” Marriage is all about self-sacrifice for others because of love. Secularism is not.

In the culture wars going on in the world around us, the secularist argument is dominant in the movies, on television, and in the newspaper media, while the arguments of believers are to be found more in the radio talk shows. Oh, there are some exceptions to be sure. I am just speaking here of what is usually to be found.

So when you hear talk about abortion, promiscuity, adultery, premarital sex, the gay lifestyle, contraception, divorce and remarriage, and now cloning, realize that they each have some connection with the central meaning, value, and purpose of marriage. Is Christ to be invited to the celebration of your life, or do you want Him to stay away? For if He comes to the party, then all that we have watered down and degraded in terms of human values and purposes in life, all those gallons of water in six stone water jars will be changed. Are you unsatisfied with watered down faith in others? Watered down trust? A watered down marriage, watered down love, or a watered down life? If so, invite Christ into your celebration of life and all those gallons of watered down human living will be changed.

In the scheme of Christ’s mission and purpose the wedding feast of Cana, you see, isn’t something that was simply “pretty” or “nice.” It was the location for His first miracle and it, along with the Last Supper (otherwise called “The Wedding Feast of the Lamb”) it brackets all that Jesus Christ gives us in His life among us as reported to us in St. John’s Gospel. Bethlehem, Nazareth, Cana, and the Last Supper, and the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, are at the core of God’s marrying us in Jesus Christ. All that they give us, along with the miracle at Cana, are at the core of our religious beliefs and our understandings of what it means to belong to the human family.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”