Second Sunday of the Year – January 15, 1995 – Blessed Sacrament
The miracle at Cana is described by the Evangelist as the first of the signs by which Christ revealed his glory and his disciples came to believe in him. This description takes the event out of the realm of the merely spectacular and turns it, as will be the case later with the other “signs” recounted, into a symbol of the whole work of Christ, the manifestation of God’s glory and a call to faith.
As we have heard in our first reading, a marriage feast is a frequent biblical symbol of the joy of the messianic age and its restoration of communion between God and mankind: “As a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you.” The Gospel account builds on that symbolism and tells of the abundance (six stone jars with fifteen to twenty-five gallons each: somewhere between 90 and 150 gallons!) of choice wine, saved until now, with which God is replacing the pale wine of the Old Covenant. One can imagine the festivities that could result!
Abundance is also a theme in our second reading: the abundance of gifts, ministries, and works which St. Paul says God has poured out upon his Church. This passage is one of those on which the Second Vatican Council built in order to restore a sense of common participation and responsibility of all Christians in the life of the Church and in its mission in the world. Paul makes a formal statement: “To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” The Council echoed him with its own declaration: “From the reception of these charisms, even the most ordinary ones, there arises for each of the faithful a right and duty to exercise them in the Church and in the world for the good of all and for the growth of the Church” (AA 3)
This conciliar teaching opposes the idea that the life of the Church is chiefly the work of the clergy. It builds upon a view of the Church that sees it first of all as the whole body of believers, the whole People gathered in faith, hope and love, the whole Body of Christ whose life, health, and activity are articulated in its many different members, each with different functions, but all cooperating to accomplish its purpose. The Church is not the hierarchy, and any serious theology of the Church must take seriously the fact that 99% of the Church are not clergy or religious. What happens here each Sunday is not something that the priest does up here at the altar, while the people attend, as they might attend a concert; it is our common action–notice how all the prayers are in the first person plural. In the same way, what the Church is and does in the world is not exhausted by what is done in church on Sunday. Whether it is an effective witness to Christ in the world is also decided by what we do when we leave this church, during the week, when the abundance of gifts we celebrate here are to be shared with others in word and deed.
The Council’s emphasis was providential, because the years since have seen a notable decline in the numbers of priests and vowed religious. Even in our own country the presence of the Church as a witness and servant of Christ now requires the active participation of the laity. There are many communities where lay people carry out many of the functions once undertaken by priests, sisters, and brothers. All the evidence now is, that this is a phenomenon that will only become more common in the years ahead.
That is a practical matter that renders more urgent what is the clear implication of the biblical and conciliar teaching. If it is true that “to each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good,” if it is true, as the Council put it, that there are not supposed to be any merely passive members of the Body of Christ (AA 2), then each of us should be considering what gift it might be that he or she has received. It may be a gift for the inner life of the Church: for its worship or its educational activity. It may be a gift for the Church’s work in the world: for its social outreach. It may be a gift to be displayed in simple manifestations of faith, hope and love in our conversations, in our work, in dealing with illness or old age, in confronting social, political, cultural challenges. We have each and all received gifts, and they are gifts meant to be shared. It is by such multiplied and diverse activities that the work of the Church is accomplished, that the abundance of Christ’s gifts to the world are displayed, that the world continues to have set before it a living and effective “sign” of the reconciling love of God that was first displayed by Jesus Christ at Cana in Galilee.