Second Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year C
[Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 96; 1Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-12]
A few years ago, I needed to travel by car across the province from Provost to Kananaskis. My GPS gave me a choice of routes, and indicated that the travel time in each case would be about six and a half hours. However, when I checked with some of the local folks, they gave me directions that the GPS hadn’t: first, go here, then take this turn at a rock, then follow this road until it becomes another, and so on. By taking their advice, I saw some breathtaking Alberta scenery that I otherwise would have missed, and reduced the travel time to five hours. As we all well know, there is no substitute for local knowledge.
We are living in a time marked by a search for direction without knowing where to turn to get it. This is felt acutely with respect to the COVID situation, wherein many people are struggling to accept the direction they receive from government officials, medical authorities, even from the data of science. So many voices telling us so many different things leave us unsure of the direction to take. Yet the search for direction is also felt in our personal lives generally, in our families, and on the world stage. A great number of “routes” are proposed, and it can be very difficult to know which one to take. What is more, our world often operates without a clear idea even of our destination, which makes it impossible to know if the various twists and turns of life are actually leading us anywhere. Small wonder, then, that we are encountering so much mental anguish in our society. What we need is reliable and trustworthy local knowledge that gives us clear and sure direction.
That’s what we get from the Gospel. Today’s passage is from that of Saint John. Throughout this fourth Gospel, St. John teaches us in many ways that Jesus is our local knowledge. He is “local knowledge incarnate”, if you will. Because he is the Son of God, fully divine, he has local knowledge of the infinite mystery of God, and of the divine saving purpose to free us from sin and lead us to our destination, which is eternal life in heaven. Because he is born of Mary and is fully human, he has local knowledge of our creaturely condition, and of everything we go through in life. Because he was perfectly obedient to the will of God his Father, he has local knowledge of the route we must follow to arrive at our destination. In fact, he is the route, as he himself revealed, when he said “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” In Jesus Christ, we have been given the reliable and trustworthy local knowledge we both need and seek.
This truth about Jesus lies behind the account John gives us of the wedding feast at Cana. The miracle by which water is changed into wine is one of the “signs” that reveal the identity of Jesus and invite us to place our faith in him, to give him our complete trust as the one reliable “route” to follow to eternal life. In this context, Mary’s command to the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do has a meaning far deeper than simply dealing with the problem of insufficient wine at the banquet. Her words are also directed to us and, indeed, to the world. If Jesus is “local knowledge incarnate”; if he is the only one who makes clear both our destination and direction, then he alone is the one to whom we must listen and give our obedience. Mary says to us what she said to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.”
Yet, it is precisely here that we encounter a difficulty in our day. We are experiencing a crisis of trust in authority, which is giving rise to the multiple directives and self-directions that are drawing us apart from one another. Who, really, can we trust to guide us? That is a serious question troubling many people right now. We ought not be surprised, then, if that very question spills over into our response to the Gospel. Why should we trust Jesus?
To help us with this, let’s focus for a moment upon the miraculous change of water into wine. It happened at a wedding banquet. As we hear in the first reading, and throughout the Bible, the marriage bond between man and woman is used as an analogy to describe God’s covenantal love with His people. The message communicated at Cana is that Jesus has come from God to wed humanity to himself in an eternal covenant of love. This was accomplished in his death and resurrection, when he, the bridegroom, drew to himself the Church as his bride. Within this perspective, the change of water into wine becomes a foreshadowing of the far more wondrous transformation Jesus brings about in our lives by the gift of his love: a change from the colourless and tasteless life of isolation and sin to the rich and joyful life that flows abundantly from union with him. So, of course, we can trust Jesus. As the Church’s bridegroom, as the one whose love for us is unconditional, as the one who wants us to be on the right pathway and be with him forever, Jesus will never lead us astray. He always knows what he is doing in our lives, he always knows what is best for us, and this makes his every command worthy of our complete trust. There is no more reliable and sure direction for life than the one given to us by the Blessed Mother: “Do whatever he tells you.” He is your local knowledge.
In this Eucharist, as at every mass, the act by which Jesus wedded us to himself is sacramentally renewed. By the covenantal love poured out upon us from the altar, may we be granted once again the miracle of a transformed life as we place our full hope in Jesus Christ and, in faith, follow his every command along the route he lays out before us.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
St. Joseph’s Basilica
January 16th, 2022