“‘You have kept the good wine until now. Jesus did this at the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so reveal his glory.” John 2:1-11.
The green color of my vestments marks a change in the Church calendar. We are now in the “Ordinary Sundays.”
These regular or ordinary Sundays are thirty-three or thirty-four weeks of celebration that gives an order to the liturgical year. Of course, this order is interrupted by the festive seasons of Advent and Christmas, the penitential season of Lent, and the joyous time of Easter.
If this is the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, what is the First Sunday? Something I’ve never quite figured out. Take it from me; this is the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.
A friend of mine tells me an old saw or saying that the shortest distance between two people is a short story. The art of storytelling is about narrative, dialogue, structure, and memorable characters.
In this “ordinary time,” we read in the very early chapters of John’s gospel a truly extraordinary story. We listen to a story about Jesus and how he transforms water into wine at a marriage feast in Cana.
How does this story connect to the rest of John’s gospel? How might this story provide us a clue about the broader spiritual or transforming mission of Jesus?
Some years ago, I was on a sabbatical from college teaching. From the long list of the items you may wish to consider on your own time, maybe travel to exotic places? Perhaps once again, you should seriously take up the piano? Or, in my case, how about falling back on something you may know but want to improve?
So I found myself back at New York University, and this time I enrolled in a creative writing course, mostly essay and autobiographical writing.
The first assignment in 600 words and due the following week: What is your very first memory from childhood? Really, what do I write about? What to do? What memory? I sat up a whole night, trying to recall my first memory?
Well, eventually, that memory of an event so long about came back to me. It was at this moment in my life, a mini-me, at three and a half years of age. My very first memory was the day my Aunt Betty and Uncle Tom were married, now almost seventy years ago.
I remember a long black limousine that approached my grandparent’s home, and my aunt dressed in white and attended by my mother and other women. I recall walking to the church, hand-in-hand with my mother’s best friend, who we called “Aunt Stella.”
From the old family photographs, I see images of the big automobiles, and my aunt and uncle in the back seat, women with flowers, and men dressed in unfamiliar clothes.
At the church, I recall standing on the pew. I had to peer over the shoulders of the adults to see a large number of people and the vast space of a church.
For our large extended Italian-American family, this was a big event. Sorry to say, I don’t recall much of the reception or the dancing. By that point in the festivities, I may have been asleep.
But I could say now, this was the first glimpse of my family as I had come to know them, many years later, and all I have left is this fond memory.
Now back to the creative writing course, the following week, my fellow students had an array of first memories: going to an early baseball game with dad, or a favorite teacher in kindergarten, or an incident of a child getting lost in a department store. In personal writing or a screenplay, nothing is more troublesome than getting lost in unfamiliar surroundings or worse yet, a loveable dog lost and at risk. Check out the new movie, “A Dog’s Way Home.” It’s a scary heart-breaker.
After members of the class presented their memoir piece, the teacher had one bit of advice; namely, there has to be glue, a structure or armature that holds the story together. It’s the element that helps to create tension, drama, or suspense.
Let’s return to the gospel and John’s capacity to tell a good story about this miracle as the very first sign of the good works Jesus is truly capable of.
For centuries, scholars have poured over this reading for its dramatic action, Jesus’s response to Mary’s request, his service to the couple whose names are lost to us, and the vast quantity of wine that filled these jars.
So much wine satisfied those lucky guests as well as the leftover wine for those outside the doors. Six jars would amount to 120 to 180 gallons of wine: an abundance like the gifts of the Magi, or the generous words at the Jordan River about the beloved son, this miracle reveals God’s glory.
We call this an epiphany or manifestation that would mark Jesus’ life work and his person-to-person healing ministry.
For Jesus, this is the transformative moment as he gradually becomes aware of his spiritual powers. You may call this the structure or glue that holds together the entire gospel narrative.
This wedding feast is the first memory of a community who recall Jesus’s saving powers, and like me at three and a half, these followers of Jesus realized they too are joined in a faith community or family. It was their task and ours to continue this mission of his.
Today, the words of St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians values the gifts of the spirit and how each of us, as members of this faith community, contributes to and benefits the lives of others. How we use these gifts is something that we’re learning about and even testing ourselves.
Recall the words of Teilhard de Chardin: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, rather we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
So let us go back to our deep memory. Unfold our own story as we discover those moments that connect us to a loving God who reveals himself in love, faith, and service to one another, our own families, and the broader community.
Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.
Take a listen to Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday.”