Sometimes people come up to me and say something like this: “I’ve brought this problem, this situation to the Lord, and I’ve asked the Lord for help. But God doesn’t seem to be answering me.”
What is unspoken is important: “Do you think God is listening? I’m not hearing him. What should I do now?”
My suggestion: learn to listen better. But what does that mean? If the only time we make any effort at all to listen to God is when we ask for something, chances are, we are totally unfamiliar with the ways that God might speak to us.
We should listen for the Lord’s voice more often and more attentively. Then we would be more likely to hear the Lord speak an answer to our prayer.
The Prophet Ezra reads the Word of the Lord to the people. The people rise and listen attentively. Ezra interprets what he reads so that all the people will understand.
What does Ezra say? “Do not be sad. Do not weep. Today is holy. Rejoice for the Lord is your strength.”
Jesus reads the Word of the Lord to the people. When Jesus enters the synagogue all the people are looking to him. They are listening. They are ready to hear what he wants to tell them.
Do we look intently upon Jesus? Are our eyes fixed upon the Lord? Are we listening? Are we ready to hear what the Lord wants to tell us?
At Mass, we read the Word of the Lord, the church says: God draws near and speaks to us like he spoke to Adam and Eve in the garden, like he spoke to Samuel in the night, like he spoke to the prophets, like he spoke to Jesus, his only Son.
If we are listening, the Word of God has the power to transform our lives.
It empowers us to refocus our lives. It nourishes us and feeds us so that we are refreshed and renewed.
It gives us guidance and assistance when we are troubled. It provides an answer to our prayer.
We might feel like God is distant or silent. But that’s just our perception because we aren’t really listening. God draws near to us and speaks to us here a Mass in the reading of the Sacred Scriptures, through the prayers and the music, in the silence and through the Eucharist.
God also speaks to us in the ordinary events of our daily lives.
If we are not hearing, then we should listen for the Lord’s voice more often and more attentively. If we make this our practice, then we would be more likely to hear the Lord speak an answer to our prayer.
Our world seems to be running out of wine. ISIS and radicalized Islam have declared war on the world through terrorism. This has created the Syrian refugee crisis. We are faced with jittery world markets and a slowing world economy.
Our nation seems to be running out of wine. The evening news tells of a plague of mass shootings, a shaky job market, a presidential election that’s shaping up to be a circus.
Our state seems to be running out of wine and money. So does our local community.
We probably even feel like we are running out of wine ourselves. We tend to worry and fret over all the things I just mentioned, many of which are beyond our ability to control.
I wonder if the the bride and groom realized that they were about to run out of wine at their own wedding party. There’s nothing they could have done about it. It would have only caused them needless worry and anxiety?
What motivates Mary to intervene? We can’t know for sure but she must have had some concern for the reputation of the couple and their families. She must have had a desire to be helpful.
She brings her concern to her son with faith that he can do something. I think it is fascinating that Jesus doesn’t really do all that much. He speaks a Word. Go draw water.
Jesus is the Word, the Word made flesh, the Word spoken to us by God the Father.
And Jesus’ Word has effect. He speaks and things come into being. He speaks and water turns into wine.
Mary points out the crisis and the stewards draw the water. They are really the ones who do all the work.
The stewards who drew the water knew that it was not wine. But the chief steward certifies that it is a superior wine, much nicer than anything the couple could have provided. And much more than was necessary.
The six water jars held at least 120 gallons. That’s 600 bottles of wine or 50 cases. That’s an abundance. After Jesus speaks, they are no longer out of wine.
The Gospel writer calls this miracle of water turned into wine a sign. A sign of what? A sign that Jesus brings about an abundance.
Not just an abundance of wine, an abundance of grace, an abundance of mercy, an abundance of forgiveness, an abundance of joy, an abundance of life filled to the brim.
But for Jesus to say the word, somebody has to do the work. That’s where we come in.
Like Mary, we have to intervene when friends and family are in crisis. Like the stewards, we have to draw the water of mercy.
Then and only then can Jesus say the word and the water turns to wine in abundance, filled to the brim.
We identify ourselves by our places of origin: the Champagnes from Cypress Island, the Smiths from Bayou Portage, the Bonins from Coteau Holmes, the Courvilles and Blanchards and Barras from Catahoula, the Bienvenues and Theriots from Saint Martinville.
We identify ourselves by our families. Who’s your mama? Who’s your daddy? I am so and so’s son. So and so is my mother.
We identify ourselves by our occupations. I am a doctor. I am a teacher. I am a priest. I build houses for a living. I cut hair.
We identify ourselves by our associations. I’m a member of the National Rifle Association. I’m in the Kiwanis. I’m a Boy Scout. I’m a democrat.
We identify ourselves by our sexual orientation. Gay. Straight. Bi. Trans. Poly. Fem. Metro.
We identify ourselves by our religion. Jewish. Muslim. Evangelical Protestant. Lutheran. Catholic.
What do these really say about us? They tell of our personality traits, preferences, likes and dislikes, memberships, careers. But that’s about all. They don’t really say anything about who we are.
Isn’t there something more we can say about ourselves?
Isn’t there another identity? Could there be another association?
Isn’t there something more we should say about ourselves? Could there be another family?
Well, even if we don’t say something more about ourselves, God in heaven has something to say about us, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased.”
These are comforting words. They say something about who we are. God doesn’t stop there. God has more to say through the Prophet Isaiah.
I have formed you. I have called you by name. I have grasped you by the hand. Our God says to us, “I have created you. You are wonderfully made.” If that’s not enough, there’s even more.
God anointed his son, Jesus, with the Holy Spirit. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus was compelled to go about doing good. This brought about healing.
If God created us, then we are also God’s children. Which means that God anoints us and fills us with the Holy Spirit so that we can go out into the world and do good.
Our good works also bring about healing in our lives, in our families, in our world.
We identify ourselves in many different ways. But the most important way for us to identify ourselves is the way God identifies us.
There’s an old saying, “It’s the thought that counts.” But this old saying is just not true. It is not the thought that counts. Upon more careful reflection, we discover it is, in fact, the gift that counts.
You see, I can think about being a good person, but then if I go out and treat others terribly can I say, “Yeah, but I thought about being a good person. It’s the thought that counts, right?”
I can think about going to church, but then if I don’t go can I say, “Yeah, but I thought about going to church. That should be good enough right?”
God didn’t just think about us. God brought us into being. And God cared enough to send us his most precious gift. God sent us his only son. God gives us the gift of a Savior.
The Three Magi didn’t come bringing tacky knick knacks from the Dollar Store. They brought precious, expensive gifts of Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh.
The Angels didn’t come bringing news of a half price sale. They brought a message of great joy. Today is born a Savior, Christ the Lord.
So this Feast of the Epiphany is an invitation for us to reflect on our own gift giving. Yes. Why? Because it is the gift that counts. GIfts are important.
So as we begin this New Year, I would like us to reflect on four areas of gift giving in our lives.
First, what is the gift I give to myself? As I begin this New Year, can I pledge to take better care of myself?
Can I put my spiritual and physical and mental well being at the top of my lift of things to take care of in this New Year?
Second, what is the gift I give to God? As I begin this New Year, can I pledge to come to be with the Lord each Sunday?
Can I give to God this precious gift of my time? Can I spend time in prayer talking to God yes, but also listening?
Third, what is the gift I give to my family? As I begin this New Year, can I pledge to show greater love and mercy to each member of my family?
Can I also give them the gift of my time? Can I give my family my undivided attention for at least a portion of each day?
Fourth, what is the gift I give to the Church? As I begin this New Year, can I pledge to help save the Presbytere?
Can I give $20 at the beginning of each month to enable us to continue our restoration work?
There’s an old saying, “It’s the thought that counts.” But that’s just not true. In this New Year can we turn our good thoughts into good actions?
During this Christmas Season, we celebrate God’s most precious gift to us. And we come to understand that it is the gift that counts.