They Have No Wine
At the wedding feast at Cana, Mary, the mother of Jesus, observes that the hosts have run out of wine. She tells Jesus who rebuts her request with “what concern is it to you or me.” Mary doesn’t back off, retreat, or let it slide. She trusts that Jesus will solve the problem and tells the servants to “do whatever he tells you.” And we know the rest of the story—water becomes wine and there is enough for everyone. And it is the BEST!
On Tuesday, I spent the greater part of the day on Zoom listening to briefings on food insecurity, homelessness, “houselessness,” public safety, domestic violence, and other realities in our city and county. Each topic was addressed by both a civic leader and a faith leader. All were addressed with emphasis on what it means that San Antonio is a Compassionate City. The event was sponsored by The Intersection, an interfaith, city-funded collective of groups, led by Ann Helmke, that provide resources to assist vulnerable populations. As I reflect on what I learned, I realize that each briefing I heard included a plea similar to Mary’s—they have no ________! They have no home, they have no respect, they have no safety, they have no food, they have no job, they have no healthcare, etc.!
Anne Osdieck uses this quote from Pope Francis to reflect further on what Mary teaches us at the wedding at Cana:
Like Mary at Cana, let us make an effort to be more attentive in our squares and towns, to notice those whose lives have been “watered down,” who have lost—or have been robbed of—reasons for celebrating; those whose hearts are saddened. And let us not be afraid to raise our voices and say: “they have no wine.”
The cry of the people of God, the cry of the poor, is a kind of prayer; it opens our hearts and teaches us to be attentive. Let us be attentive, then, to all situations of injustice and to new forms of exploitation that risk making so many of our brothers and sisters miss the joy of the party. Let us be attentive to the lack of steady employment, which destroys lives and homes. … Let us be attentive to the lack of shelter, land and employment experienced by so many families. And, like Mary, let us say: they have no wine, Lord.
Journey of Pope Francis to Chile
Jan. 18, 2018
In the second reading, Paul speaks of “gifts,” “forms of service,” or “workings.” What do you think he means? What is the purpose of these gifts, and how will you discover and use the gifs you have been given?
Our journey to live The Way continues! Thank you, Mary, for teaching us to trust that our raised voices can result in action.
As we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, a baptism that he chose, we are given the opportunity to recall our own baptism. Even if, like me, you were baptized as an infant, the liturgy gives us other chances to recall the meaning of the sacrament. At St. Francis, we witness the baptism of children as well as adults. In each instance of someone’s reception of the sacrament, we are all reminded that we, like Jesus, are all beloved daughters and sons of God. We listen again and again, to being claimed for Christ, to being a holy child of God, one who is “beloved.” Do we really believe that? When and how do we experience that “belovedness”?
At times, we need convincing that we ourselves are beloved. We don’t always feel that way. We need others in our community, in our families, and in our relationships to name that in us, to remind us, to have us recall the relationship God has with each of us. And we also are to recall the belovedness of every single person in God’s creation, no exceptions.
Jesus chose to be baptized by John the Baptist, the one who prepared the way, the one who was the “middleman” between God, between the Holy Spirit and Jesus. Notice that John the Baptist points people away from himself, checking and letting go of his own ego in service to God’s plan. He launches the public ministry of Jesus through his baptism. The water, the words, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the being sent are all essential to renewing life and to renewing the face of the earth.
We recall again that we too are sent like Jesus to proclaim God’s love and to practice justice. We too encounter wastelands, deserts, rugged land, and rough country—the conditions described by the prophet Isaiah. Our world could be described in the same ways. Our baptismal call, our being called as missionaries to all, has us responding to COVID, election politics, racism, the climate crisis as Jesus taught us to respond. We need only to recall our baptismal promises, our baptismal relationships as beloved daughters and sons of God.
“Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow…” The prophet Isaiah foretells Jerusalem’s future, the promise of a new creation. The Magi, scientists and scholars, experienced this as they traveled in darkness, led by a brilliant light. One encounter with the Lord and they were never again the same. They couldn’t even go back the same way, their journey took a different turn. What began as a scientific and scholarly venture, became a spiritual journey, a pilgrimage. And that journey was filled with surprises, especially surprising turns.
The star, the light that led them, brought them to a child. I’ve been reflecting on how we respond to our first sight of a newborn. We describe a mother-to-be as radiant. So many life events—birth, baptism, “firsts”, marriages and other events have our hearts throbbing and overflowing with joy.
The Feast of the Epiphany is about awakening, paying attention in new ways, celebrating what we learn when light shines in the darkness. We lit candles in the darkness at Taizé as we prepared our hearts for Christmas—the birth of Jesus and the re-birth of hope in our lives. We learned to be silent, to be still, and to hear the words and music. We celebrated Christmas at night with new lights everywhere—on trees, in Nativity displays, and a light that was shining in each of us. We too experienced the radiance at what we saw—God among us, Jesus born, Jesus beheld, Jesus carried, Jesus the source of a movement in our hearts, a movement described in throbs and overflows of LOVE.
Did we see it? Did we pay attention? Did our encounter with the Lord change us, enlighten us, and have us “go home another way”? What encounters with the Lord to we look forward to in this New Year? How will we “behold” the light in and on our New Year?
We Are Family
How is your family? I often both ask and get asked. Christmas and the Feast of the Holy Family provide countless experiences of “family.” Some are joyous and filled with surprise announcements. Some are visits that we dread—family members ask inappropriate questions, start political or ideological fights, and spread gossip. Some are glorious reunions. Some are experiences of drifting apart. Some are missing loved ones who have joined a heavenly family. Family can be messy and complicated! Family can also be a blessing! Family can mean support and understanding, unconditional love and respect, encouragement, and inspiration.
Perhaps living in anxiety and struggle with COVID, we have experienced new calls to expand our concept of “family” and what it means to be “children of God.” Perhaps we have become more aware of how the experience of “being lost” feels? In the Temple, Jesus was drawn to those from whom he could learn and grow, even when his actions separated him from Mary and Joseph and caused great anxiety. He confounded his teachers in the Temple with questions and answers.
I had wise aunties who often ended difficult conversations about family members with “Just remember, no matter what, we are family!” I am grateful for that wisdom and understanding that focus on right relationships that they instilled in me. Life as a family can be very complicated. Still, we are family!
This Christmas, I am grateful for all that has been “born” in me—new awareness of how we are called to love and care for all the “children of God.” No exceptions! I have asked questions and learned from others. I have listened for understanding and not to convince others to think as I do. I have spent time with my brothers and sisters from all over the city of San Antonio, not just on my side of town, in efforts to make our city better, to improve the lives of those who are lost to the systems. I have new sisters and brothers! My family has changed and my family has grown.
Womb to Womb
Of the four Gospels, Luke includes women and their experiences more often than any of the others. This Sunday we hear about Mary and Elizabeth, both at extremes in their capacity to bear children. Mary might be considered too young and Elizabeth too old. God looks upon both favorably and chooses them! Nontando Hadebe, an African, laywoman theologian, writes, “God it seems believes in women, takes women seriously, and trusts women with the greatest event in history.” Mary and Elizabeth lived in an oppressed nation where women had no significance, status, or power. They did however have a relationship with God and with each other. Mary’s unaccompanied trek to visit Elizabeth becomes a “visitation” like no other. Their heart-to-heart talk includes a “womb to womb” communication between their children. The sharing of life, of values, of ways of being there for each other are an expression of women’s power, of women being there for each other, of standing strong together, of using voice and action to assert a different kind of power. Hadebe continues, “In a world where a third of women globally experience violence, the power of women circles and authority to speak and bring life to each other, the story of Elizabeth and Mary is indeed the Advent story of hope for women.”
You can read Hadebe’s full reflection here:
When’s the last time you were so joyful that you burst into song, you couldn’t keep from singing? Our call in the readings this week is to rejoice, to imagine a joy so great that we would shout and sing, as Zephaniah directs us to do. But we aren’t the only ones singing. He also reminds us that God is singing joyfully because of us! What are some examples of God’s singing in our midst these days? What is it about who we are and what we do that has God singing?
Paul says that we must rejoice in the Lord always, be kind to all, lose anxiety, make all requests known to God, and thank God as though he has already granted our requests. Are there ways that we can reduce our anxiety? What has worked for you in recent months? Are there ways to steer clear of petty disputes?
The crowds asked John the Baptist, “what should we do?” Listen this weekend to what God is nudging you to do. Is it to sing joyfully in the company of the community gathered at Mass? Is it a call to service in liturgical ministries—greeting the families who come to worship with us? Proclaiming the Word of God as a lector? Being an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist? Visiting the homebound? Singing carols as a family? Volunteering to serve others? Sharing the Good News of God’s presence among us?
Emmanuel—God is with us—we sing with joy and pray for peace! We thank God and each other for the joy that comes to us through relationships. We ponder ways to serve—to know what we should do!
What does it mean to “prepare the way of the Lord?” This phrase from the prophet Isaiah, repeated by John the Baptist, has three points of emphasis. Advent gives us the opportunity to examine ourselves—our lives, our relationships, and our vocations. We ask ourselves about preparation. We ask ourselves if we are indeed focused on The Way. And we ask ourselves if our priorities and our actions follow “the way of the Lord.” Preparing here is about creating a welcoming heart and about acting “in step” with God. Baruch says “God is leading Israel in joy…with his mercy and justice for company.” Jerusalem is “named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.”
Notice how joy, mercy, justice, and peace are prominent words throughout the readings for this Sunday. Paul prays that we will be able to “discern what is of value.” What are the things of true value in life? Who is the John the Baptist in our lives who calls us to prepare the way of the Lord?
As we prepare, as we examine ourselves, these might be the questions we use for self-reflection.
Are you as just as you could be? Are there relationships in your life that you need to re-examine? Are you as joyous as you could be? Are there gifts in your life that you are called to recognize and act on in new ways? How can you take advantage of the Advent season to do some hard work on your life and your relationships? How can you advocate and act for justice in our Church and in our world? What mountains need to be leveled and what valleys need to rise up?
In all of this preparing, may we like Israel be led in joy, with God’s mercy and justice for company. May we believe that we can be “light in the darkness.”
To light an advent candle is to say, in the face of all that suggests the contrary, that God is still alive, still Lord of this world, and, because of that, “all will be well, and all will be well, and every manner of being will be well,” irrespective of the evening news. Ron Rolheiser. November 28, 2004. Advent Hope.
Another short but powerful reflection on the readings for this Sunday can be found here:
Be Watchful and Vigilant
That’s the cliché Catholic joke you might hear this First Sunday of Advent because Advent marks the beginning of the new liturgical year for the Church. We move from what is called Year B where we focused on the Gospel of Mark to Year C with Luke’s Gospel.
Out of all our liturgical seasons, Advent is probably my favorite. We mark the passing of each week by lighting another candle on the Advent wreath, illustrating how the coming of Jesus, the light of the world, is growing nearer. We celebrate with fun, memorable traditions, such as opening Advent calendars with gifts each day, adding a new ornament to the Jesse Tree symbolizing a Biblical story about an ancestor of Jesus, leaving out shoes for St. Nicholas, or following Mary and Joseph on their journey to Bethlehem during Las Posadas.
The first two weeks of Advent call our attention to the second coming of Christ, while the last two weeks recall his first coming.
The Gospel for this First Sunday of Advent feels like Luke could have written it today. Roaring seas, dying of fright, the anxieties of daily life, and imminent tribulations. I’m sure we have all experienced some of those things during the pandemic.
Personally, I can speak to the “roaring of the sea and the waves” of the Gospel. My hometown, Lake Charles, Louisiana, was battered by back-to-back hurricanes in 2020. Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 hurricane and one of the strongest to hit the state, came first. Then Hurricane Delta hit just a little over one month later. I went home to help my parents survey the damage shortly after Hurricane Laura, and it looked like a warzone where several bombs had gone off. Large trees were snapped like toothpicks, electrical lines were dangling across roads, and people’s homes and businesses were demolished.
If you live in Southwest Louisiana during hurricane season, you must, as the Gospel instructs, “be vigilant at all times.” It could be the difference between life and death. The past several months have been difficult for the people of Southwest Louisiana. They also suffered through the winter storm in February, and just when a lot of residents had finally completed repairs from the hurricanes, a historic flood once again destroyed property, followed up by a destructive tornado in October.
You couldn’t blame the people there for losing hope after going through all of this. But the people of Southwest Louisiana are resilient in spirit. We, too, are called to be resilient in spirit, for Advent is a season of hope and expectation!
While the Gospel might worry us with talk of the powers of the heavens being shaken, the Prophet Jeremiah assures us in the First Reading of God’s kindness and care for us, describing his intent to fulfill his promise to his people. “In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure.”
Pope Francis said in 2018, “Advent invites us to a commitment to vigilance, looking beyond ourselves, expanding our mind and heart in order to open ourselves up to the needs of people, of brothers and sisters, and to the desire for a new world. It is the desire of many people tormented by hunger, by injustice, and by war. It is the desire of the poor, the weak, the abandoned. This is a favorable time to open our hearts, to ask ourselves concrete questions about how and for whom we expend our lives.”
Amid the terrible devastation of the hurricanes in Louisiana, I witnessed incredible generosity. I saw it in the out-of-town volunteers who brought supplies. I saw it in the chefs who cooked hot meals like jambalaya and refused payment. I saw it in the neighbor who brought bottled water to the overheated family next door as the whole region tried to survive the brutal summer heat of August without air conditioning. These were people looking beyond themselves, expanding their mind and heart in order to open themselves up to the needs of people, of brothers and sisters. They were, as St. Paul writes in the Second Reading, increasing and abounding in love for one another and for all.
Advent reminds us that our life is in waiting. Pope Francis said last year, “God always answers: maybe today, tomorrow, but he always answers, in one way or another. He always answers. The Bible repeats it countless times: God listens to the cry of those who invoke Him. Even our reluctant questions, those that remain in the depths of our heart, that we are ashamed to express: the Father listens to them and wishes to give us the Holy Spirit, which inspires every prayer and transforms everything. Brothers and sisters, in prayer there is always a question of patience, always, of supporting the wait. Now we are in the time of Advent, a time that is typically of expectation; of expectation of Christmas. We are in waiting. This is clear to see. But all our life is also in waiting. And prayer is always in expectation, because we know that the Lord will answer.”
Let us go forth into this Advent season in prayer and expectation. Let us practice waiting instead of falling into the rapid, hectic rush of the holiday season. And let us reflect on ways that we may bring the hope of Advent to people we encounter.
You came into our world with all its sorrows.
Keep us watchful for your presence
in the midst of our struggles.
Tell us again that your
love will triumph.
Make us vigilant. Put our hearts on alert.
Let us be aware of all the places
in our world where
In all beauty.
Anywhere there is love.
In helping hands reaching out.
Lord Jesus, to all the dwellings
in our lives where
you are not
I Was Born for This
In response to Pilate’s question, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answers, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
What kind of king is Jesus? What is the truth to which Jesus testifies? How do we belong to the truth and what does listening to Jesus’ voice entail?
Unlike other images of kings that we read or hear about, Jesus is a servant king. His kingdom, therefore, is also different. In the Lord’s Prayer, we say, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” How do we live a heavenly kingdom on earth?
Gerald Darring gives us both images and actions describing the kingdom of God on earth.
The Kingdom of God is …
The Kingdom of God is a space. It exists in every home where parents and children love each other. It exists in every region and country that cares for its weak and vulnerable. It exists in every parish that reaches out to the needy.
The Kingdom of God is a time. It happens whenever someone feeds a hungry person, or shelters a homeless person, or shows care to a neglected person. It happens whenever we overturn an unjust law, or correct an injustice, or avert a war. It happens whenever people join in the struggle to overcome poverty, to erase ignorance, to pass on the faith.
The Kingdom of God is in the past (in the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth); it is in the present (in the work of the Church and in the efforts of many others to create a world of goodness and justice); it is in the future (reaching its completion in the age to come).
The Kingdom of God is a condition. Its symptoms are love, justice, and peace.
Jesus Christ is king! We pray today that God may “free all the world to rejoice in his peace, to glory in his justice, to live in his love.”
Do You Want to Be a Star?
Do you want to be a star? Not the celebrity or actor kind of star, but a star that shines brightly, illuminates and guides. Points of Light was a national effort at recognizing and highlighting individuals and groups that led others through service that made a difference in the lives of others. It was about civic engagement and efforts to create opportunities for volunteering. Listen, learn, and act became a tagline for reaching out to those we didn’t ordinarily interact with.
Does that sound familiar? Pope Francis is intending just that in the worldwide Synod on Synodality. The job of the Church on earth is to shine light on and work for justice. This is how Pope Francis describes the work:
It means following in his (the Word made flesh) footsteps, listening to his word along with the words of others. It means discovering with amazement that the Holy Spirit always surprises us, to suggest fresh paths and new ways of speaking. … The Spirit asks us to listen to the questions, concerns and hopes of every Church, people and nation. And to listen to the world, to the challenges and changes that it sets before us. Let us not soundproof our hearts; let us not remain barricaded in our certainties. So often our certainties can make us closed. Let us listen to one another.
Opening of the Synodal Path
Pope Francis, Oct. 10, 2021
As we journey together in this process of listening, learning, and acting, we will discover many who have been the wise who shine brightly and those who courageously lead others to justice.
Who have been the persons in your life who have illuminated or shed light on something you were discerning? Who are the persons who shine brightly for you? What is it about them that makes them shine brightly, that guides and leads you to becoming a better person? Who are the Points of Light among us?
The prophet Daniel assures us that those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever. What does leading the many to justice look like today? Where is justice needed? Who are the stars of efforts at justice in our world?