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Third Sunday of Lent

1st Reading: Exodus 20:1­17

Responsorial: 19:8, 9, 10, 11
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:22­25 Gospel: John 2:13­25

God has perfect timing. The Israelites were not given the Ten Commandments until the right time. If God is truly God, then everything about Him is perfect. We unfortunately tend not to see this because of our sinfulness. God asks us to change, helps us adjust to that change and then gives us another change to endure. This is how He helps us to become more like Jesus.

Since we need to be made fit for Heaven, we have to be conformed to Christ. As St Paul says, put on the mind of Christ, that is, live the way God asks of us. It brings us peace and joy. It may be difficult at first, but just as a storm brings thunder lightning wind and rain, later on, we enjoy the flowers and crops and fruit that come forth.

As Christians, we are asked to endure many trials and sometimes we get upset when God has to clean us out as Jesus did the temple. The big question is why? Why Lord? St Padre Pio says God will never answer that question. Job found out that God's questions (Where were you when I founded the earth...) were satisfying so he didn't need an answer as to why he suffered so much. We need to be thankful in all circumstances. As St Paul said, ­ Always and for everything giving thanks in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God our Father.

Written by Fr. Jim Curiel, OCD

Second Sunday of Lent Sunday of Lent

1st Reading: Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18  
Responsorial: 116: 10, 15, 16-17, 18-19  
2nd Reading: Romans 8:31b-34 
Gospel: Mark 9:2-10

The inner circle of Apostles, Peter James and John went up the mountain with Jesus where Jesus was transfigured. Jesus's appearance changed to what He is, light – the Light of the world. What we are called to on this earth is not transfiguration but transformation.  We need to be changed from the inside, from our very depths. If we were transfigured now, it would be a horrible sight – we would see each other's blotches of sin and other forms of deformation. So again, we are called to transformation.

Abraham was put to the test. He was willing to sacrifice what God had promised him, his only son, Isaac. Because Abraham obeyed God, he was given a great blessing. 

Blessings come in many forms. Peter James and John were blessed with the vision of Jesus as light. It was to help them understand that Jesus is greater than both Moses and Elijah -two great figures in religious history. It underscored that Jesus is God and that he laid down his life – it was not taken from him. Blessings help us in this life to go forward in faith and obedience to God so that we can go to Heaven, a place of light.

Written by Fr. Jim Curiel, OCD


Wedding at Cana – Part 2 of 2

Mary and the Mystery of Cana

A second very important thing about this gospel is that at the wedding feast at Cana, which symbolized the new Kingdom of grace, the Mother of Jesus was there. Mary’s presence at Cana was not just an aside. She was not there by mistake. She was not there by happenstance.  Notice, the Mary is spoken of in this gospel passage even before Jesus is mentioned. John says,  “There was a wedding feast in Cana in Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the feast.”(2:1-2)

We could say that there are three very important ways in which Mary stands out in the passage.  First of all, she is there as “the woman of faith.” Returning to the Gospel, we see that Mary is “already there” at the wedding. Jesus’ disciples “begin” to believe in Jesus only after his miracle. But, Mary is “already there” in the sense that she is the one who, absent any miraculous deed on the part of her Son, already understands and has faith in her Son’s ability to bring salvation to the human race. Unlike others, she does not need any signs that prove that Jesus is God’s Servant-Son. She believes before the sign of the changing of the water into wine. In other words, Mary is where we should be, standing before Christ in trusting faith.

Again, Mary is present at Cana as one who intercedes. Her motherly concern for the couple at Cana, leads her to say to Jesus, “They have no wine.” So, by bringing the matter to Jesus’ attention, Mary is there as one who petitions on behalf of others. She is there as one who asks for the miracle which will lead Jesus’ disciples to believe he is Messiah and Lord.  Indeed, the fact that Mary brought the lack of wine to Jesus’ attention shows that she has a special maternal role in God’s plan of salvation.

In Church teaching Mary is often spoken of as mediatrix, as intercessor. Among Catholics, Mary has ever been looked upon and addressed as one who can present their requests and their needs to her Son and to the Father, just as she implored her Son at Cana on behalf of the wedding guests. 

This passage from the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium speaks of Mary’s place in the Church as the Mother who intercedes or her children: “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation  . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix." LG #62

So, Mary is perpetually our advocate before her Son Jesus. At Cana, Mary’s trusting faith leads her to put the need for wine in Jesus’ hands.  And, it is interesting that in presenting this petition to her Son, she does so with the utmost discretion. Trusting that her son Jesus can and will do what is best, as the Mother in grace of those at the wedding, she simply brings the absence of wine to her Son’s attention.  

In his book, The Spiritual Canticle, John of the Cross speaks of Mary as the model of Christian prayer, as the one whom by her simplicity and trust shows us how to pray. John of the Cross suggests that by her good judgement, by her reserve, Mary becomes the model of discretion in prayer. So, we should follow Mary’s example in asking for the things we truly need. 

This idea comes to expression in John of the Cross’ commentary on Stanza 2 of the Spiritual Canticle which reads as follows:

Shepherds, you who go
up through the sheepfolds to the hill,
if by chance you see
him I love most,
tell him I am sick, I suffer, and I die.

And John comments on this stanza with these words:

2.8. It should be pointed out that in this verse the soul does no more than disclose to the Beloved her need and suffering. The discreet lover does not care to ask for what she lacks and desires, but only indicates this need so the Beloved may do what he pleases. When the Blessed Virgin spoke to her beloved Son at the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, she did not ask directly for the wine, but merely remarked: They have no wine [Jn. 2:3]. And the sisters of Lazarus did not send to ask our Lord to cure their brother, but to tell him that Lazarus whom he loved was sick [Jn. 11:3]. There are three reasons for this: First, the Lord knows what is suitable for us better than we do; second, the Beloved has more compassion when he beholds the need and resignation of a soul that loves him; third, the soul is better safeguarded against self-love and possessiveness by indicating its lack, rather than asking for what in its opinion is wanting. The soul, now, does likewise by just indicating her three needs. Her words are similar to saying: Tell my Beloved, since I am sick and he alone is my health, to give me health; and, since I suffer and he alone is my joy, to give me joy; and, since I die and he alone is my life, to give me life.

Sometimes in the spiritual life, or life in general, we may feel as though we are in desperate circumstances and that the Lord is not listening when we call. We are sick of our circumstances of life, we are suffering nearly to death … and the Lord seems to be paying no heed. Or, there are times when we feel we know exactly what we need and will not be satisfied unless God answers in an expected way. By her wonderful example, Mary teaches us how we are to pray, with faith, with humble trust, discretely placing ourselves in God’s care. 

In all the various circumstances in which we find ourselves, whether in our material or spiritual life, we must trust. Following Mary’s example, we are to have confidence that the Lord, who knows what is suitable for us better than we do, will respond to our needs in the best way possible.  And, we will recognize that the Beloved has more compassion for the soul when he beholds its need and resignation. So, we will simply let the Lord know what we are lacking and then we will put the matter in his hands.

This passage from John is truly to be prized. It helps us to understand the central role of Mary in the life of the Church. It encourages us to follow her example and imitate her faith. 

Lastly, this passage from John’s gospel helps us to “hear” Mary. I say that the passage helps us to hear Mary because this is the only place in John’s gospel where Mary speaks. And, it is likewise the only place in any of the gospels where Mary gives us direction, where Mary acts as a Mother offering guidance to her children by her speech.  This is the third very important role that Mary plays at Cana.

Interestingly, there is a sense in which the servers whom Mary addresses at the wedding at Cana represent us. Notice, that John says that the headwaiter did not know where the new wine that tasted so good had come from, but “the servers who had drawn the water knew.” 

Thanks to our faith, we are “servers” because we understand the significance of this miracle. We know where the wine of the new covenant of grace comes from. We know that Jesus provides the very best wine (his own Blood) for the marriage feast between God and his people. 

Now, just as Mary gives guidance to the servers at the wedding in Cana, so she gives guidance to us. Very simply, like a loving Mother who knows what is best for her children and wishes to guide them to maturity, she says, “Do whatever he tells you.” We could receive no better guidance or advice as to how we can find the fullness of life. The nearer we draw to Mary’s Son in faith, the more deeply we drink the blood of the New Covenant, the more fully we will be transformed in grace.

Pope Francis has spoken eloquently on the deep significance of Mary’s words at the marriage feast at Cana. Let’s end with a reflection on the Pope’s words:

Mary's words to the servants, "Do whatever He tells you", complete the spousal image of Cana and are her last two words in the Gospel: they are the legacy that she leaves to all of us. "It is an expression that recalls the formula of faith used by the people of Israel to Sinai in response to the promises of the Covenant: 'All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” … “Indeed, at Cana, the servants obey. Jesus said to them, 'fill the jars with water.' And they filled them up to the brim … 'Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast'. During this wedding, a new Covenant is truly stipulated and to the servants of the Lord – that is, all the Church – a new mission is entrusted: 'Do whatever He tells you'. Serving the Lord means listening to His Word and putting it into practice. It is the simple but essential recommendation of the Mother of Jesus and it is the program of life for the Christian. For each one of us, drawing from the jar is equivalent to entrusting oneself to the Word of God, to experience its efficacy in life. So, along with the master of the banquet, who tasted the water that had become wine, we too can exclaim, 'You have kept the good wine until now'. Indeed, the Lord continues to reserve the best wine for our salvation, just as it continues to flow from the pierced side of the Lord. (Francis General Audience June 8, 2016)

Thanks to her presence at the wedding at Cana, Mary, our mother, has left us this “legacy of faith” in her Son, Jesus. She has left us an example of discipleship and of discerning prayer. In the guise of a teacher, she has given us guidance as to how we can discover true life by doing whatever her Son tells us to do. She continues, throughout the ages to act as our intercessor and our loving Mother, summoning us to believe in the signs of God’s love given to us by her Son, to strive understand them more fully and allow them to lead us, one day, to celebrate Cana perpetually at the marriage feast in heaven with her Son, Jesus.
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1st Sunday of Lent

1st Reading: Genesis 9:8-15 
Responsorial: Psalm 25: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 
2nd Reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22 
Gospel: Mark 1:12-15

Because of rampant sin, God once destroyed almost all people on the earth by means of a flood. Now He has sent us Jesus to save us from sin by means of his passion death and resurrection. He even sent Jesus to Sheol to preach to the dead in order to save them as well.

Jesus endured temptation in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. He allowed himself to be driven by the Spirit into the wilderness in obedience to God. Will we let ourselves be led by God in the same way?  

Lent is a time of improvement through sacrifice, but not a time of sadness. It is a time to take stock of ourselves in the light of the Spirit that God gives us in order to change for the better; a lasting change that brings about joy. And if we have not improved to any degree by the end of the Lenten season, it will be nobody's doing but our own.

Written by Fr. Jim Curiel, OCD


Wedding at Cana – Part 1 of 2

Let’s begin with a little humor: There is a story about a priest named Fr. Murphy who went to visit a family in his small-town parish for a holiday meal. They all had a great dinner during which the wine flowed rather freely. Then it came time for Father to return home.

The man hosting the meal said, “Hey Father we still have a half-bottle of wine left from the meal. I’m going to put it in the back seat of your car. No reason to let it go to waste.” Well, Fr. didn’t realize it but he was a bit tipsy when he got into his car. As he drove down the road on his way home he didn’t notice that his car was weaving a bit.

Well, the local Sheriff, who knew everyone in town, saw Fr. Murphy’s car weaving and he decided to pull him over to the side of the road. “How are you doing Father,” the sheriff asked. “Oh, just fine Sheriff,” replied Fr. Murphy. “Say Father,” the Sheriff asked, “what’s that in the back seat of your car? “Oh, that’s just a bottle of water,” said the good priest.

“Well, I’ll tell you what Father,” the Sheriff said, “that doesn’t look like water to me. Let me see it.” The sheriff took the bottle in his hand pulled out the cork, gave it a whiff, and said. “That’s wine for sure Father.” And, Fr. McGill said, “My golly he’s done it again!”

All of us who are schooled in the gospel find that little story about Father Murphy to be humorous because we are familiar with the story in the second chapter of John’s gospel. In John’s gospel, the first miracle that Jesus performs is the miracle of changing water into wine at a wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.

Since the very beginning of the church’s reflection on the gospels, this particular gospel about a wedding feast in John has been interpreted to be central to the revelation of the identity of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.

In the mind of the Fathers of the Church the wedding in Cana was deemed a major epiphany or manifestation of the God-man, Jesus the Lord. In preaching, the Wedding at Cana was tied together with two other epiphanies, namely, the manifestation of Jesus to the Wise Men from the East and the Baptism of the Lord.

Through these events Jesus, who is the perfect image of the Father, comes to illuminate the world with the light of God the Father’s love. Jesus is luminous in his Being and all his works are luminous epiphanies, given to the world so that in receiving the light, people can come to believe in Jesus as God’s own Son.

Thus, in a spectacular way, this gospel passage from John reveals Jesus to us so that we can believe in him. This story is a luminous story, a story of light.

Let’s just review the passage from chapter two of John.

On the third day there was a marriage feast in Cana in Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short Mary said to Jesus, “They have no more wine.” (And) Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern involve me, my hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding 20 to 30 gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So, they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it had come from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first and then when people have drunk freely an inferior one, but you have kept the good wine until now.” And the gospel concludes: Jesus did this as the first of his signs in Cana in Galilee, and so revealed his glory and his disciples began to believe in him.

The first thing to notice about this story is very important, namely, that there is a wedding going on.  Actually, if you were to translate these words for “wedding feast” literally from the Aramaic the words “marriage feast” mean a “drinking feast.” A marriage feast was a drinking feast that actually could go on for quite some time. The celebration could last for as much as a week.  Obviously, to run out of wine at a wedding would have been a great disgrace.

In the Old Testament scriptures wine has a special significance, Wine is as sign of celebration, wine is a sign of gladness, wine is a sign of God’s favor and his providence. This pairing of wine with God’s providence is quite evident in chapter 25 of the prophet Isaiah, as in the following words: “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich foods and choice wines, juicy rich food and choice wines.”  (Is. 25:6)

In this passage, Isaiah speaks of a future day, the day of the Messianic King, when wine would flow freely at the marriage feast between God and his people.

In the New Testament, wine becomes the symbol of Christ’s Precious Blood, the blood of the Lamb. Where the Sacred Wine of Christ’s Blood is poured out and drunk with faith, the new Kingdom is formed and the Church is brought forth. Where people share in the “one cup,” they are brought into unity of life with Christ and with one another. Where people participate in the Eucharist, they come into the light to share in the glory of God, the same glory that was revealed at Cana. Where people drink from the Sacred Cup, they begin to know what it will be like to be married to God for all eternity.

So, what sort of wedding is this in Cana? It is a ritual Jewish wedding in one sense, but since people are there who are going to come to believe in Jesus, it is also the wedding between Christ and the faithful soul. By anticipation, it is the wedding of all those throughout the ages who will come to believe in Jesus.

In a word, the marriage feast at Cana is the beginning of the wedding between Christ and his Church, which is to last through eternity. As Hugo Rahner says of the marriage Feast at Cana,  “It was a marriage and the God-man changed the water of human nature into the wine of the divine.”(Mary and the Church Pantheon Books, N.Y. 1961 pgs. 50-51)

The wedding at Cana also gives a forevision of the Eucharist, a point brought out by St Ephraim (306-373) when he said, speaking of Christ,

The wine he offers, Christ makes excellent, to suggest the treasures hidden in his life-giving blood.  The first sign he accomplishes is the wine that gladdens the celebrants; the significance is that this blood rejoices the nations.  All earthly joys come together in wine; all of salvation is joined in the mystery of his blood.  He offers the sweet wine that transforms hearts, as they believe in the inebriating doctrine that transforms them.

To be continued...

Written by Fr. John Magdalene Suenram, OCD
Fr. John Magdalene belongs to the Discalced Carmelite Friars, Province of St. Therese.  He is a member of our Friars' community in Oklahoma City where he serves as Councilor.

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