Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Cana and God's All-Powerful Word

The good news is that I was on a five day silent retreat this past week and so I have had plenty of time to meditate and pray on today’s readings. The bad news is that I wasn’t allowed to talk for five days (so maybe I’ll make up for that now). During this silent retreat, I of course had no connection to the outside world; no internet, no cell phone or newspaper. When I met with my spiritual director on Tuesday, he told me that there had been a huge earthquake in Haiti and that thousands upon thousands had died and everything was in ruins. I was completely taken aback, and I have to admit that my first thoughts were along the lines of, “God, couldn’t you have prevented this?” I’m sure all of us had similar thoughts go through our heads. In times like these, we’re tempted to think of God’s powerlessness. We’re tempted to think he doesn’t care or can’t help us. This is Satan’s temptation, to have us think that God is powerless against evil.

It may not be because of what happened in Haiti. It may because of financial ruin, the death of a loved one, seeing a loved one suffer, or a sin we can’t seem to conquer. For many different reasons, I’m sure that all of us have had the temptation at one time or another to think that God doesn’t care, that he isn’t here with us in our suffering, or that he’s powerless against evil. Because it’s so easy to fall into that temptation, it’s such a great thing that we have the Mass. At Mass we profess our faith together: “We believe in one God, the Father, the almighty.” We proclaim God’s mighty works in Scripture, the living Word of God. It is at Mass that we are brought back truly and spiritually to the crucifixion: the moment when it seemed evil had triumphed, but in reality God had won his most powerful, decisive, everlasting, and glorious victory. With all of this in mind, the message of today’s readings is God’s Word is all-powerful.

Imagine sitting in a ramshackle church in Haiti right now; you may have lost family, friends, or all your possessions. Now imagine how you would hear this line from the first reading that could have easily gone in one of our ears and out the other: “No more shall men call you forsaken or your land desolate.” Just think how resonating those words are for Haitians who may have dug their way into church this morning, who truly feel forsaken and whose land is clearly desolate. The prophet Isaiah wrote these words as the Israelites were in exile in Babylon. The Israelites had been torn from their land, the promised land which Yahweh had given them. In their time of great suffering, what does God promise them? He says, “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet.” God will speak, and simply by speaking they will be saved. Later the reading says, “You shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the Lord.” For the Israelites, God’s Word was all-powerful. Just by his speaking, their fortunes would change. They would go from being called “forsaken” to being called “my delight.” Their land would go from being called “desolate” to being called “espoused.” In the midst of great suffering for the Israelites, Isaiah declares that just by God’s almighty word, Israel would gain freedom and be restored to its land. If you’ve ever gone to the sacrament of reconciliation, burdened and broken by sin and heard those words of the priest, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” you know as the Israelites did that God’s word is all powerful. The ruins of our soul are restored to beauty.

The Gospel also testifies to the fact that God’s word is all-powerful. We might be tempted to think that Christ changing water into wine was a simple act of kindness to an embarrassed groom. Certainly, it was a kind act, but it was more than that. It was a powerful act. Notice that one of the last lines of the Gospel reads, “Thus did he reveal his glory.” I don’t associate glory simply with kind gestures, but with powerful, miraculous actions.

Notice how Jesus performs the miracle of changing ordinary water into the best of all wines. He simply commands, “Fill the jars with water.” He does it through the power of his word. It takes nothing more; no praying over the water or blessing it; he doesn’t need to touch the water or do anything else. By those simple words a great miracle takes place. This reminds us of a later miracle when Jesus offers to go to the centurion’s house to heal his servant. The centurion responds with incredible faith and humility. He knows the Lord doesn’t have to come to his house to heal his servant. He has no need of praying over his servant, touching him or even seeing him to heal him, so the centurion says, “Lord, only say the word and my servant shall be healed.” We take the centurion’s line and apply it to ourselves before every Holy Communion: “Lord only say the word (your all-powerful word), and I shall be healed.”

Jesus changing the water into wine through his simple instruction also reminds us of what will take place later in this Mass. The priest, who during the consecration is really acting in the person of Christ, will say those sacred words, “This is my body,” then, “This is the cup of my blood.” Just by repeating Jesus’ words, the greatest miracle in heaven and on earth takes place: the bread and wine become Jesus’ body, blood, soul, and divinity. Instead of water being turned into wine, wine is turned into Jesus. Rather than prolonging a marriage reception, Jesus allows us to participate in the heavenly wedding feast of God. Instead of supplying wine which will provide drink for a couple hours or days, we receive the food and drink that provides our nourishment for eternal life. This all happens through God’s word. God’s word is truly all-powerful.

We are tempted to think because of certain sufferings of our own or of others, that God is powerless against evil. Nothing is further from the truth. This same God who created the world through his word, who changed water into wine through his word, and who changes bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood through that same word, will change our mourning into dancing, our suffering into joy.

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