January 17, 2016
The Wedding at Cana of Galilee
The Gospel by JN 2:1-11
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The wedding at Cana of Galilee
This week I went visiting patients who are dying of a terminal illness. One of them, a young woman, expressed her dissatisfaction with religion and God. Where is God when the cancer was growing inside me? Where is God now? I shrugged my shoulders and did not know what to answer: if I tell her that God has always been with her, she will try to prove me wrong with such arguments like: God let young children die in a car accident or God not curing her from cancer. As I managed to avoid answering her, she looked at me, straight in my eyes and asked: how can you have faith in a God who clearly does not exists?
Many people see the stories in the bible as just that: stories, stories that never happened. Jesus is a myth for many people. God is a myth for them. Some argue that if he created us: he got bored of us and left us to our own destiny. In fact there was a philosopher that believed that God is dead!
I looked at the woman and I said: You know I think that Nietzsche was right: God is dead, but not the real God. The god that is dead is your god, the god that you worshipped all these years.
―She looked at me and said: You are wrong; I have not worshipped God at all.
―Exactly, I said. Your God is a distant God who does not care about you… Your God is a god of convenience, a God whom you meet in church once a week, maybe more likely once a year: a god that you never experienced in your own flesh. Frankly your god is a god whom you don’t care about. In fact I am willing to bet that you have been so busy all these years, that not only you neglected praying to God and getting to know him, you also failed to develop a loving relationship with your own family and friends.
I ended up asking her two questions: Do you believe that God can heal you? Do you believe that if you get healed, you can change the way you have been living?
Now you asked me: How can I believe in God? I believe that God has the power to change me and change the world. I believe that God can transform water into wine or a rock into bread; I believe that God can call a peasant or a fisherman and transform him into a religious leader or a pope. I believe that God is capable to heal you from cancer. But the question is not about healing the physical body, the question is about healing the way you have lived your life all these years. See, I meet people constantly who are able to deal with their dying father with faith. And I meet people that as soon as they are sick they hate God, the world and themselves. What is the difference?
Today we hear a story of Mary coming to Jesus and asking Him to solve a simple problem: people ran out of wine. Mary places the problem in Jesus hands and then she waits – Do as he says- . If Jesus chooses to make the miracle, fine. If Jesus chooses not to make a miracle: is also fine.
The extraordinary event in today’s gospel is about faith, about transformation. Mary knew that Jesus was capable of transforming water. She knew that he was able to help the poor, cure the sick and resurrect the dead. She presented the problem and then waited for him to do the miracle. Her faith was strong, but it is so strong, because she was detached from the outcome: whatever God chooses to do was fine with her. Of course, she would insist for a miracle, but ultimately she would move to the side and say: THY will be done.
We have come to believe in a God who has to do our will in order for us to believe. If you are God, heal my cancer, we say. Do you need a miracle to believe? If so, when the miracle does not come, your faith will be destroyed.
It’s your faith that moves the love of God; it is not God doing your will that gives you faith. Let’s repeat that: It’s your faith that moves the love of God into action; it is not God doing your will that should give you faith. In other words, my faith does not depend on an outcome.
I know that to those who have no faith: faith is very hard to understand. Some people have accused me of having a blind faith, but I respond with: my faith is not blind. When an employer pays your wages every first of the month, month after month: you have the experience of an employer who is faithful. In fact you come to trust your employer so much that the day before he pays you: you pay all your bills and mail all your payments. You do that because you know that every first of the month your check will be waiting for you. You trust that!
When you experience God to be always there for you, no matter what happens in your life, you know that God is there for you. Your experience of God is real and is tangible: you no longer believe out of blind faith, you believe out of a real experience of God. Your faith is experiential: not blind.
In my case I see the grace of God constantly at hand, working around me. When I ask and God does not deliver, my faith does not shrink; my experience tells me that there must be a reason for God’s delay: for not delivering. This may sound to you like a cop out or self-delusion, but I am not arguing with that, you are free to believe in what your experience tells you. I believe in what my experience of God has shown to me over and over again. No wonder, when the Virgin Mary found her friends in a difficult situation, she did not hesitate and ran to Jesus for help. She did that because she had the experience of Jesus’s love, of his miracles; of his power. She trusted him.
Today, we have the disadvantage that we cannot see Jesus or hang out with him. We have to discover Jesus through our faith, through our souls. Jesus is reachable when you pray every day at least twice a day. There was a saint who said that you have to pray to God at least 30 minutes a day or an hour if you were too busy. In today’s world, we are pragmatic, we want results right away, we are realistic – so we fail to connect with the spirit and therefore, we are unable to experience God. No wonder we can’t have faith! Because faith is developed through a continuous experience of God – and if you don’t have time for God, or don’t have time for prayer, then you do not have time to experience God. This is a vicious cycle that leads us nowhere.
In today’s’ gospel we experience the faith of a woman who is able to insist and at the same time abandon herself to the will of God. Let us ask God to give us that same faith, so that we can rely on God as if everything depended on Him; and work hard as if everything depended on us. Together, faith and action transform water into wine and a sinner into a saint.
Fr. Marc Angelo, PO Box 3414, Culver City CA 90231