All three readings today lay out a roadmap of what it means to be a Christian. This map leads us from Isaiah in the first reading, through the Gospel, to St. Paul in the second reading. Let me lay it out for you. The reading from Isaiah and the Gospel help us to embrace our identity and St. Paul’s letter points to our mission as Christians. Firstly, our identity is this: We are loved by God. Using the prevalent marriage language found in the readings, it could be phrased this way: we are spiritual spouses of Christ Himself. And our mission? We are called to manifest Christ and His love for all to the whole world through the Spirit.
Isaiah uses numerous marriage metaphors in consoling Israel in our reading today. At this time in Israel’s history they were exiled in Babylon and were suffering the loss of their homeland and feeling abandoned by God. God was sending them consolation through Isaiah and promising them that He would again live this marriage covenant with them and Israel would be renewed. God tells Israel, “…the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be espoused. For as a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.” Notice that not only is God renewing His marriage covenant with Israel, but also He is rejoicing in it! He rejoices in Israel because He loves Israel, even when they kept turning away from him, which was the reason for the Babylonian exile! And this desire of God was not limited to the Israel of the Old Testament, but this is the same desire God has for each and every one of us throughout all of history. God doesn’t just look at Israel and say that He will renew this marriage covenant with them, but He says the same thing to you and to me today and each and every day. Each of us, in a sense, heads into exile when we chose to sin and turn away from God. But God, the perfectly faithful spouse, waits for us to return to Him and, in his Mercy, He joyfully welcomes us back into relationship when we go to the sacrament of confession. God gladly chose to enter into this marriage covenant with Israel and with us and this foundational truth leads us to our identity: we are loved by God. We are His Beloved Sons and Daughters. We are espoused by God Himself. The Gospel today reveals this to us much more explicitly through the miracle of Jesus at the Wedding in Cana.
What is interesting in the Gospel account of the Wedding Feast at Cana is that the actual wedding couple is not identified at all! We have no idea who actually got married. All we know is that there was a wedding and Jesus and his mother, Mary, were both present at this wedding. This isn’t a mistake on St. John’s part in writing the Gospel, but it is St. John’s way of leading us to a deeper reflection on who Jesus is and, subsequently who we are, by turning our focus away from the wedding couple to Jesus as the ultimate bridegroom himself! This is shown because in ancient weddings, it was the responsibility of the bridegroom to provide the wine and we notice that when the water that has been turned into wine and is presented to the headwaiter, who didn’t know where the wine had come from, he immediately calls the bridegroom assuming he provided the wine and not Jesus. The bridegroom here is not the one who provided the wine, but it was Jesus Himself who miraculously provided the wine. St. John shows us that Jesus himself is the bridegroom by providing the wine. But not that Jesus was the bridegroom at that particular wedding, but that symbolically and spiritually, Jesus is the ultimate bridegroom to the whole Church as He publically reveals his divine glory through this first miracle. He takes the water, which represents the Old Mosaic Law, and transforms it into wine, the new and eternal covenant. This covenant he enters into with the Church, with us, as his spouse by shedding his blood on the cross for us and for our salvation. This eternal covenant is made present each and every time we go to Mass. Each and every time we celebrate the Mass we are reminded of the covenant that we are united to with Jesus. It reminds of our very identity. We are espoused and loved by Christ who is the ultimate bridegroom with the whole Church as His bride. We, as the Church, are the spouse that Jesus loved so much that he died for upon the cross.
Flowing from our spousal relationship with God, we embark on the mission of manifesting that same love of Christ to the world, especially in today’s world that rejects and ignores the love of Christ. Christ manifested his glory at the Wedding at Cana, and we, in turn, manifest His glory to our world. And St. Paul tells us how exactly to do that. St. Paul reminds us that our mission as Christians is only done in and through the Holy Spirit. He goes on to list many of the various gifts that the Spirit works in all of us: wisdom, knowledge, healing, prophecy, discernment of spirits, speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, among others. There are many gifts, but the same Spirit who works them in all of us. They bottom line here is that each and every one of us plays a part in the mission of the Church to manifest Christ to all people. It’s not just the priests and deacons! The Spirit works through all of us, young or old, introverted or extroverted, ordained ministers or lay people. No matter what our role in society, God gives us gifts to manifest His Gospel of life and love to those in our world. This mission is carried out in all the various places we are in our lives, from within our families to the broader society around us. And one area that deserves special attention this weekend is on our mission to manifest the Gospel of Life to our society as we mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade this week, which legalized abortion. Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly and we recognize that the gift of life from God is given to all persons unconditionally. This reception of this incredible gift is in jeopardy, particularly with the most vulnerable: the unborn and those who are sick and are at the end of their life. Our mission of manifesting Christ to the world means not being passive about it, but active in urging our society to protect life at all stages, not just when it suites society’s whims. Yesterday I was part of the March for Life at the Capitol. Archbishop Aquila celebrated Mass at the Cathedral and then we gathered in front of the Capitol where we heard from Archbishop Aquila and Dr. Alan Keyes speak on the great importance of being active in supporting life at all stages because, when we do, we are pointing to and submitting ourselves to God’s design not our own selfish ones. When we actively promote the Gospel of Life we are acting in accord with our identity of being loved by God and our mission of manifesting Christ to the world. Archbishop Aquila urged all of us in a very direct way to not be passive when it comes to witnessing to the culture of life. He encouraged attending the political caucuses coming up in March and also to be vocal through email and phone calls to our representatives here in Colorado regarding the recently introduced House Bill 1054 that would legalize physician assisted suicide. We are called to be a loud voice in society that shows the true value of life at all stages, whether that life is an unborn child or a sick person who thinks assisted suicide would be best. All life is precious and loved intimately by God. Human suffering also has meaning and witnesses to Christ’s own sufferings for the world on the cross and should never be cut short. Life, even in those tough times, is too precious to lose for the sake of “convenience.” In a very concrete way, we were gathered yesterday to manifest to the truth of the Gospel of life in and through our public march. We were manifesting Christ to the city of Denver with the hopes of changing hearts and changing legislation to protect the unborn and all life from the destruction that currently plagues our society. That same witness we are called to live out in our own lives wherever that is.
My brothers and sisters, as we receive the Eucharist today, I urge you to let Jesus remind you of who you are. You are loved by God. You are His Beloved Son or Daughter. You are loved so much that He died for you. Live out of that very identity, which comes directly from God and not from the world. Then, let Jesus in the Eucharist touch your heart today and let Him prompt you to not be passive about sharing that love with the world. Be active in the mission that we are called to as Christians. Manifest the Gospel of Life with everyone you encounter from your families to the society around us by using the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given you. Particularly I would encourage you to manifest the Gospel of Life with those who are in power to create laws and urge them to submit to God’s loving authority and not to anyone else. Let your identity as being loved by God shape everything you do. And don’t be discouraged or fearful about it because we are living and acting with Jesus and Jesus has overcome the world. Let us go forth today with a renewed sense of our identity as Christians and proclaim the Gospel to all the world.