Saturday, January 16, 2010

Homily for Epiphany 2 at St Matthew's

If this sounds clunky, it may be because I dictated it as best I could while driving up to Cambridge - but it seems to me that this week human wrestling is more likely to be helpful than well-researched and coherent theology. I surely hope so...

I'd been planning, this week, to talk to you about the God of celebration, the one who rejoices in his creation and wants us to celebrate his acts of abundant generosity.
But then Haiti happened, and the note of celebration was abruptly silenced.
It would be strange and unnatural if we did not pause to ask the question “Why”, to demand with urgency where God was when the earth shook, and the shanty towns smashed like match-wood.
Indeed, where IS God, while so many of his children endure lives of such desperate and abject poverty?
Huge questions.
It would be tempting to bypass a homily and simply pray the litany together, but that would be to run the risk of seeming to set God outside, oever over-against, creation, and I so return to this morning's gospel, with its account of a very human Jesus, taking time out to celebrate a wedding.

Weddings in 21st century Britain are often huge and costly events, but how much more so in the Middle East, where they were, and remain, a primary expression of status in the community. The wedding at Cana had little in common with our private festivities for a hand-picked guest-list, but was designed as an outpouring of exhuberant hospitality for the whole neighbourhood, a yardstick by which the host's reputation might stand or fall.
I used the word “outpouring” deliberately, for it was here that the problem arose.
Not enough wine.
Shame and social disaster, and no hope of repairing the situation.
Nothing that anyone could do....

Except that, among the guests, was a woman of extraordinary faith, one who had heard the message of an angel and dared to believe to believe in the promise of transformation.
We might speculate about why Jesus was initially reluctant to act, just as we might wonder why God so often seems slwo to intervene in response to our pleadings.
We might do better, though, to follow Our Lady's lead, as she tells the servants to do whatever her Son may ask, confident that he has heard and will respond to her.
And what does Jesus do?
He enlists those same servants, instructing them to deploy the ordinary, everyday things around them.
Filling the great water-jars demanded something of those servants – a pump to be primed? A bucket to be drawn?....
How could they know that their efforts would bear such amazing, impossible fruit?
Jesus did not, God DOES NOT perform magic.
Again and again, he involves us.
Without the obedience of the servants there would have been no miracle, but as they poured the water it must have seemed a laughably inadequate response to the urgent need for wine.
Jesus used what they brought, and revealed himself as the God who cares and transforms.
As we gaze, appalled, at the devestation of Haiti, this is no time to lament our perceived inadequacy.

Remember the words of Theresa of Avila

Christ has no body now on earth but yours
No hands but yours,
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion is to look out upon the world.
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands by which he is to bless us now.

So it is time to bring whatever we can, offerings of money, of love, of prayer, knowing that if we collaborate with God, God will collaborate with us, so that the light of God's love may shine in Haiti as in all the places of pain and darkness in the world.


SEEKER said...

Thanks for this very helpful homily linking the Epiphany 2 Gospel reading with response to the Haiti disaster.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kathryn. I have messy church on Sunday and we were planning to have a celebration eating wedding cake and make weird and wonderful fruit cocktails. I was wondering whether we could still celebrate given the suffereing in Haiti. We still will but I can talk about how we share in God's abundant love for his world.

zorra said...

Kathryn, I love your reminder that Jesus didn't stand back and do hocus pocus all by himself, rather he enlisted the servants and used their efforts and their obedience to accomplish his purpose,and is enlisting us now. Thanks.