Homily for 2nd Sunday of the Year 2010
Would the God, of whom we read today from Isaiah in the First Reading, who takes delight in his people want to harm them? Would the God who desires to wed the people want to destroy them? Our God would be broken hearted at what has happened to his people in Haiti!
For the Haitians their present crisis is unbelievable. We wonder how a people could recover from such a disaster. The international community is finding it extremely difficult to provide immediate help. Everything is destroyed. I had heard of "Medecins Sans Frontieres" (Doctors Without Borders) but it was only this week that I heard of "Telecoms Sans Frontieres" (Telecom Without Borders). They are volunteer telecommunication experts who reestablish telecommunications in disaster areas. It is an indication both of the extent of the needs of the people and of the generosity of so many wanting to help. The people of Haiti need our heartfelt prayers and support today.
When we think of time we usually think of the time whose passage we measure with a clock. It is very linear thing stretching from the distant past to an unseen future, one tick of the clock after another.
Other cultures, especially those in places like ancient Israel and Greece had several ways of thinking about time. The first is the one we are familiar with called chronos. The Greeks had a god called Chronos who personified time. Chronos is a word from which our word "chronometer" comes from. It is another word for a clock. A clock measures time. We like to measure things.
The second way of thinking about time is related to that word crisis. We have been speaking about a time of crisis in Haiti. This kind of time is called kairos in Greek. It does not refer to the passage of time but rather a quality of time. We are familiar with that often quoted passage from Ecclesiastes:
a time to be born, and a time to die;(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NRSV)
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace."
For ancient peoples who had no clocks it was not always a matter of knowing what time of day it is. They needed to know what kind of time it is. One does not fast while the bridegroom is still present, as Jesus would say. One does not sow seed during the harvest. A time of crisis is not necessarily a time of disaster but a time when decisions must be made.
Then there is a third way to speak of time. We use it to speak of the "last day" or "judgement day" or, in the story about the wedding at Cana in John, we hear of Jesus' "hour". But because of our clock and calendar way of thinking we imagine it to be a day far into the future when everything will come to an end as though the clock battery has died. However, this end time, this day of the Lord, this awaited hour, is not like that. It certainly speaks of an event to come. But it is one which determines the quality and the importance of the present time. And so in a sense it is part of the present too. It is the time when, as is often repeated in the bible, God will make all things new. (It is called the eschaton in Greek.)
Jesus is using these last two ways of thinking about time in the story of Cana. There is a crisis. The wedding party has run out of wine. Maybe a minor crisis in the great scheme of things. Mary, asks that Jesus do something about this crisis. He replies that his "hour" has not yet come. His day of the Lord, his judgement day, is not yet. His "hour" is his Passover, his death and resurrection. That is the time when in Him we are transformed by the creative love of God which overcomes all things even death and given abundant life.
Yet, even though his hour has not yet come, Jesus can still do something for the crisis at the wedding. He can give a sign which foreshadows, points to, and to a certain extent makes present, his life giving Passover. The fullness of life will not be his to give until his death and resurrection. The abundance of wine made from the ordinary water is a magnificent sign of the joy of new life.
Every wedding is a celebration of a new creation, a new beginning. The wedding banquet is a recurring image of that day of the Lord when God will make all things new. Jesus is the new wine that has been kept till last. The future event of his "hour" enables him to respond to the present crisis of a lack of wine at a wedding with a sign of hope and joy.
Just as the Father can change a forsaken people into ones that delight him, as we heard in the reading from Isaiah, so Jesus is able to transform water into the very best wine. The wine becomes a symbol of making our lives into his delight. God has kept the best wine until now, Jesus is saying.
We have begun Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar. This Ordinary Time is not really calendar time (chronos). It is crisis time (kairos). It is when we ask ourselves what kind of time is this for me and for us? Is it a time when I need to seek reconciliation with someone? Is it a time when I need to look for a job? Is it a time to let something go such as a bad habit or even a child who must leave home for a new career? Is it the time when I should get married? Is this a time when we need to seek out those in need? We all have decisions to make.
Jesus has given us a "sign", too, to help us, the Eucharist. It points us towards the end time from which all we do in the present takes its meaning: will what we decide to do proclaim the reign of God or hinder it.