2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C – Sunday, January 16, 2022
LISTENING TO HIM
The following is the story from an unknown source which really helps us to see that God has unique plans for all of us and has set a banquet for us to enjoy. Prophet Jeremiah rightly says “For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile”. The Sacred Scriptures for this Sunday invite us to open our hearts and minds to listen to him and trust that he will answer all our prayers.
Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up.
The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: “I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!”
The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. “I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world!”
The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. “I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they will raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.”
Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain.
The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell.
“Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest. I shall hold wonderful treasure!” the first tree said.
The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is strong. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell.
“Now I shall sail mighty waters!” thought the second tree. “I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!”
The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven.
But the woodcutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me,” he muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell.
The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter’s shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a manger for animals.
The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, nor with treasure. She was coated with sawdust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals.
The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead, the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail on an ocean, or even a river; instead, she was taken to a little lake.
The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard.
“What happened?” the once tall tree wondered. “All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God…”
Many, many days, and night passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams.
But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the manger.
“I wish I could make a cradle for him,” her husband whispered.
The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and the sturdy wood. “This manger is beautiful,” she said.
And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.
One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake.
Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and the rain.
The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun.
And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the King of heaven and earth.
One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to her.
She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.
But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth tremble with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything.
It had made the third tree strong.
And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God.
That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.
The next time you feel down because you didn’t get what you want, sit tight and be happy because God is thinking of something better to give you.
That’s what we hear today. In the First Reading taken from the 62nd chapter of Prophet Isaiah opens with these words “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch”; which reminds us of God’s love, mercy, compassion and protection for us because “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Begotten so that anyone who believes in him may have eternal life”. Throughout the salvation history God never left anyone alone but walked with them as we read in the Book of Exodus “I have heard the misery of my people and have come down to save them”. Isaiah’s hopes for urban salvation are set in the streets of a devastated Jerusalem. Isaiah 62 was written during a time when this urban dreamland seemed possible, during the restoration period in Judah.
St. Augustine in his book “City of God” although addressing paganism and early church in the Roman Empire, explores the corporate life of the church through appeal to both the heavenly and earthly cities, which both cultivate, in his words, “inevitably a social life.” These remarkable basic metaphors cast the heavenly city as a corporate pilgrimage through the streets of the earthly city. Remarkably, the earthly city is a necessary ally in the goal of establishing mortal peace. For Augustine, the Christian pilgrimage requires mortal peace. Further, mortal peace in the earthly city is necessary unto itself.
The image of marriage used in the First Reading is an open invitation from the Lord to rejoice in him and never forget to list to him “For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you”. Isn’t it wonderful to see God rejoicing over us as we listen to him? For with Him is the fountain of life, and in His light shall they see light. For He extends His mercy to them that know Him, and His righteousness to the upright in heart. He does not, indeed, extend His mercy to them because they know Him, but that they may know Him; nor is it because they are upright in heart, but that they may become so, that He extends to them His righteousness, whereby He justifies the ungodly. If we want to rejoice in him, we must listen otherwise we will continue to carry our suffering, pain, difficulties, brokenness, sadness, fears, and doubts and then the weight will be very heavy to carry like the story below.
Once upon a time a psychology professor walked around on a stage while teaching stress management principles to an auditorium filled with students. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”
Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple pounds.
She replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache a little. If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”
As the class shook their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to ache a little. Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”
In the Second Reading St. Paul is inviting us to recognize the gifts and talents we are given by the Lord through the same Spirit. “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit”. He continues: “There are different forms of service, but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone”. Diversity and unity: Saint Paul put together two words that seem contradictory. He wants to tell us that the Holy Spirit is the one who brings together the many; and that the Church was born this way: we are all different, yet united by the same Holy Spirit. The Spirit himself opens doors and pushes us to press beyond what has already been said and done, beyond the boundaries of a timid and wary faith. In the world, unless there is tight organization and a clear strategy, things fall apart. In the Church, however, the Spirit guarantees unity to those who proclaim the message. The Apostles set off: unprepared yet putting their lives on the line. One thing kept them going: the desire to give what they received. The opening part of the First Letter of Saint John is beautiful: “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you”.
Why is this important? Because our way of being believers depends on how we understand God. If we have in mind a God who takes away and who imposes himself, we too will want to take away and impose ourselves: occupying spaces, demanding recognition, seeking power. But if we have in our hearts a God who is gift, everything changes. If we realize that what we are is his gift, free and unmerited, then we too will want to make our lives a gift. By loving humbly, serving freely and joyfully, we will offer to the world the true image of God. The Spirit, the living memory of the Church, reminds us that we are born from a gift and that we grow by giving not by holding on but by giving of ourselves. Read 2 Corinthians 4:1-15 it helps us to understand the grace of God in our gifts and talents.
This Sunday’s Gospel presents the prodigious event that occurred at Cana, a village in Galilee, during a wedding feast also attended by Mary and Jesus, with his first disciples. The Mother points out to her Son that the wine has run out, and, after responding that his hour had not yet come, Jesus nevertheless accepts her request and gives to the bride and groom the best wine of the entire feast. The Evangelist underlines that this was the first of the signs Jesus performed; it “manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him”.
In the miracle performed at Cana, we can glimpse at the act of benevolence on the part of Jesus toward the bride and groom, a sign of God’s blessing on the marriage. The love between a man and a woman is therefore a good path through which to live the Gospel, that is, to set out with joy on the path of holiness.
“Yet the miracle at Cana does not pertain only to spouses” as Holy Father Pope Francis says “every human person is called to encounter the Lord in his or her life. Christian faith is a gift which we receive in Baptism, and which allows us to encounter God. Faith intersects times of joy and pain, of light and darkness, as in every authentic experience of love. The narrative of the wedding at Cana invites us to rediscover that Jesus does not present himself to us as a judge ready to condemn our faults, nor as a commander who imposes upon us to blindly follow his orders; he is manifest as Saviour of mankind, as brother, as our elder brother, Son of the Father: he presents himself as he who responds to the expectations and promises of joy that dwell in the heart of each one of us”.
We can ask ourselves: do I really know the Lord like this? Do I feel him close to me, to my life? Am I responding to him on the wavelength of that spousal love which he manifests each day to everyone, to every human being? It is about realizing that Jesus looks for us and invites us to make room in the inner reaches of our heart. In this walk of faith with him we are not left alone: we have received the gift of the Blood of Christ. The large stone jars that Jesus had filled with water to transform it into wine are a sign of the passage from the old to the new covenant: in place of the water used for the rites of purification, we have received the Blood of Jesus, poured out in a sacramental way in the Eucharist and in the bloodstained way of the Passion and of the Cross. The Sacraments, which originate from the Pascal Mystery, instil in us supernatural strength, and enable us to experience the infinite mercy of God.
Do we believe and recognize that Jesus can do anything for us like Blessed Virgin Mary? By listening and believing in his Divine powers, we can fall ever more in love with the Lord Jesus, our Bridegroom, and we go to meet him with our lamps alight with our joyous faith, thus becoming his witnesses in the world as we read in the parable of Ten virgins. It is not by chance that at the beginning of Jesus’ public life there is a wedding ceremony. In fact, the whole mystery of the sign of Cana is based on the presence of this divine spouse who is beginning to make himself known.
Jesus manifests himself as the spouse of God’s people, announced by the prophets, and reveals to us the depth of the relationship that unites us to Him: it is a new Covenant of love. By transforming into wine, the water in jars used for the ritual purification of the Jews, Jesus makes an eloquent sign: he transforms the Law of Moses into the Gospel, the bearer of joy.
Mary’s words to the servants underline the spousal picture at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you”. Also today, Our Lady says to all of us: “Do whatever he says to you.” These words are a precious inheritance that our mother left us. When we are in difficult situations, when problems occur that we do not know how to solve, when we often feel anxiety and anguish, when we lack joy, go to Our Lady and say: “We have no wine. The wine is finished: look at how I am; look at my heart, look at my soul”. Tell the mother. And she will go to Jesus and say: “Look at this, look at this: she/he has no wine”. And then, she will come back to us and say to us, “Whatever he says to you, do it.” She is always interceding for us to her son presenting our needs to him and she wants us to listen to him as well.
Through the Gospel Lord is also leaving a message for the married people as well to listen to each other and do what He is telling them to do keep their marriage blessed and protected and be faithful to each other till death apart them. I am going to leave all of you with the following story to reflect and question ourselves how to be faithful to the Lord and listen to him?
When I got home that night as my wife served dinner, I held her hand and said, I’ve got something to tell you. She sat down and ate quietly. I observed the hurt in her eyes. Suddenly I didn’t know how to open my mouth. But I had to let her know what I was thinking. I want a divorce. I raised the topic calmly.
She didn’t seem to be annoyed by my words, instead she asked me softly, why?
I avoided her question. This made her angry. She threw away the chopsticks and shouted at me, you are not a man! That night, we didn’t talk to each other. She was weeping. I knew she wanted to find out what had happened to our marriage. But I could hardly give her a satisfactory answer; she had lost my heart to Jane. I didn’t love her anymore. I just pitied her!
With a deep sense of guilt, I drafted a divorce agreement which stated that she could own our house, our car, and 30% stake of my company.
She glanced at it and then tore it into pieces. The woman who had spent ten years of her life with me had become a stranger. I felt sorry for her wasted time, resources, and energy but I could not take back what I had said for I loved Jane so dearly. Finally, she cried loudly in front of me, which was what I had expected to see. To me her cry was a kind of release. The idea of divorce which had obsessed me for several weeks seemed to be firmer and clearer now.
The next day, I came back home very late and found her writing something at the table. I didn’t have supper but went straight to sleep and fell asleep very fast because I was tired after an eventful day with Jane.
When I woke up, she was still there at the table writing. I just did not care so I turned over and was asleep again.
In the morning she presented her divorce conditions: she didn’t want anything from me but needed a month’s notice before the divorce. She requested that in that one month we both struggle to live as normal a life as possible. Her reasons were simple: our son had his exams in a month’s time, and she didn’t want to disrupt him with our broken marriage.
This was agreeable to me. But she had something more, she asked me to recall how I had carried her into out bridal room on our wedding day.
She requested that every day for the month’s duration I carry her out of our bedroom to the front door every morning. I thought she was going crazy. Just to make our last days together bearable I accepted her odd request.
I told Jane about my wife’s divorce conditions. She laughed loudly and thought it was absurd. No matter what tricks she applies, she must face the divorce, she said scornfully.
My wife and I hadn’t had any body contact since my divorce intention was explicitly expressed. So, when I carried her out on the first day, we both appeared clumsy. Our son clapped behind us, “daddy is holding mommy in his arms”. His words brought me a sense of pain. From the bedroom to the sitting room, then to the door, I walked over ten meters with her in my arms. She closed her eyes and said softly; don’t tell our son about the divorce. I nodded, feeling somewhat upset. I put her down outside the door. She went to wait for the bus to work. I drove alone to the office.
On the second day, both of us acted much more easily. She leaned on my chest. I could smell the fragrance of her blouse. I realized that I hadn’t looked at this woman carefully for a long time. I realized she was not young anymore. There were fine wrinkles on her face, her hair was graying! Our marriage had taken its toll on her. For a minute I wondered what I had done to her.
On the fourth day, when I lifted her up, I felt a sense of intimacy returning. This was the woman who had given ten years of her life to me.
On the fifth and sixth day, I realized that our sense of intimacy was growing again. I didn’t tell Jane about this. It became easier to carry her as the month slipped by. Perhaps the everyday workout made me stronger.
She was choosing what to wear one morning. She tried on quite a few dresses but could not find a suitable one. Then she sighed, all my dresses have grown bigger. I suddenly realized that she had grown so thin, that was the reason why I could carry her more easily.
Suddenly it hit me… she had buried so much pain and bitterness in her heart. Subconsciously I reached out and touched her head.
Our son came in the bedroom and said, “Dad, it’s time to carry mom out”. To him, seeing his father carrying his mother out had become an essential part of his life. My wife gestured to our son to come closer and hugged him tightly. I turned my face away because I was afraid that I might change my mind at this last minute. I then held her in my arms, walking from the bedroom, through the sitting room, to the hallway. Her hand surrounded my neck softly and naturally. I held her body tightly; it was just like our wedding day.
But her much lighter weight made me sad. On the last day, when I held her in my arms, I could hardly move a step. Our son had gone to school. I held her tightly and said, I hadn’t noticed that our life lacked intimacy.
I drove to office… jumped out of the car swiftly without locking the door. I was afraid any delay would make me change my mind… I walked upstairs. Jane opened the door and I said to her, “Sorry, Jane, I do not want the divorce anymore”.
She looked at me, astonished, and then touched my forehead. Do you have a fever? She said. I moved her hand off my head. Sorry, Jane, I said, I won’t divorce. My marriage life was boring probably because she and I didn’t value the details of our lives, not because we didn’t love each other anymore. Now I realize that since I carried her into my home on our wedding day I am supposed to hold her until death do us apart.
Jane seemed to suddenly wake up. She gave me a loud slap and then slammed the door and burst into tears. I walked downstairs and drove away.
At the floral shop on the way, I ordered a bouquet of flowers for my wife. The salesgirl asked me what to write on the card. I smiled and wrote, I’ll carry you out every morning until death do us part.
That evening I arrived home, flowers in my hands, a smile on my face, I run up stairs, only to find my wife in the bed – dead.
My wife had been fighting CANCER for months and I was so busy with Jane to even notice. She knew that she would die soon and she wanted to save me from the whatever negative reaction from our son, in case we push thru with the divorce – At least, in the eyes of our son— I’m a loving husband…
Other Sermons In This Series
March 17, 2023
November 10, 2022
December 10, 2021