The announcement of an engagement certainly stirs the whole family – both families. When it seems like a "match made in heaven" friends and relatives of the couple are delighted. Sometimes though, while both the engaged woman and man are well-liked, there may be talk among the relatives, outside the hearing of the couple. A feeling may float among them that this is not exactly a "match made in heaven."
You hear things like, "They have so little in common." "He spends so much time watching sports, she’s always on the phone, or texting." "Well he does too. The other night I saw them in a restaurant and they were both texting." "She has more education than he. He seems to have no ambition." "She’s a plugger, he’s too easygoing." "She’s free with money, he’s frugal." And so it goes. Conversations like that may go on around the dinner table – out of the couple’s earshot. Bottom line, all agree, this union, to say the least, seems like a big risk.
We are having a conversation around our Eucharistic supper table now. It is a family conversation and it is about an espousal, a marriage of a different kind, between two very unlikely parties, a very unlikely pair. The readings from Isaiah and John fit like hand in a glove.
Isaiah is talking to a people in exile. Israel has been devastated because they didn’t trust God to care for them, so they broke the covenant and made bad political alliances with pagan nations against the Babylonians. So, the Babylonians swept in, destroyed Jerusalem and took the leaders, artists and craftspeople into exile, leaving the poorest and most fragile behind to tend the land. It was a common ancient practice: take the heart of the nation into slavery, away from their beloved land. Break their spirit.
Today our table, family conversation, might go like this: "God could do better than get involved in human affairs. Look where that leads. God should keep a distance, or just be satisfied being Creator – even though that would have its frustrations as well. Maybe God could be our Judge, come back at the End to pass judgment on how we did. That certainly would reduce the feelings of betrayal and the number of times God might say to Israel and to us, ‘How could you?!’"
But God seems blinded by love for us. And what a risky love that is! Someone could say about God’s loving relationship with us humans, "It will never last. Humans are too fickle, they’ll go off and do their own thing, again and again. They are like exiles in a foreign land.
Maybe God could use what some of us have had – a wise aunt – to tell God, "You’re going to have your heart broken again and again. Is it worth it? Give up on them!" But the prophet Isaiah speaks on God’s behalf today, to exiles, broken and dispirited in a foreign country. The prophet remembers the derogatory names people called the exiles" "Forsaken," "Desolate." But just as married couples have pet names for one another, the prophet says God will have names for Israel. No longer, "Forsaken." No longer, "Desolate." God, like an ancient groom, is going to claim a spouse who has been living far away.
God doesn’t give up on us when we go a-wandering. When we make foolish choices. When our faith loses its ardor. God’s passion for us doesn’t cool, despite our foolish and sinful ways. God keeps coming back to us with forgiveness. God keeps seeking intimacy with us humans, to save us from ourselves, to fetch us back from whatever exile we have wandered off into.
We so mess things up – certainly Israel did, again and again, even killing the prophets God had sent to help them. But God can’t be shaken off easily. How do we know? Because Jesus arrives at a wedding feast in Cana and, if we heard the prophet Isaiah today, we realize it isn’t just a wedding of an unknown couple in a small village, whose location is lost to history. Jesus’ presence at the wedding and what he does there, announces that the long-awaited Messiah has arrived. The bridegroom has come to claim his bride. Jesus is the host at the banquet, and he provides a super-abundance of wine – 120-150 gallons!
It is as the prophets promised. God is an extravagant Lover and at the end time would provide a banquet with plenty of food, choice, rich wine. That superabundance of wine is a symbol for us. We might have traveled a "long distance," or a short one, on our own into exile. But we have returned to this wedding feast to again meet our God – the Daring and Persistent, Lover God. Who doesn’t give up on us, always welcoming us back. Who always offers us a new beginning, again and again. Who calls us, Isaiah tells us, endearing names – "My Delight."
Try that name on for size, for a day – or a lifetime. No matter what happens, what standards we use to measure ourselves, hear God’s loving voice calling out to us, "My Delight." I know, by any usual standards of measurement, that doesn’t make sense. But if we tried on and wore that title God gives us in Jesus, what would that do for our sense of ourselves? How would it affect our faith in God? What about our neighbor, whom God also reaches out to with the same love we have received? How should we treat another God also calls, "My Delight.?"
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
1 Corinthians 12:7
Each unique life comes with a unique manifestation of God’s Spirit; that is why our faith looks upon life as sacred. Pope Francis has spoken consistently about caring for life in all its aspects throughout his pontificate. Here are some of his memorable thoughts:
"Life must always be welcomed and protected. These two things go together – welcome and protection, from conception to natural death. All of us are called to respect life and care for it" (7/27/16).
"The plague of abortion is an attack on life. Allowing our brothers and sisters to die on boats in the strait in Sicily is an attack on life. Dying on the job because the minimum safety standards are not respected is an attack on life. Death from malnutrition is an attack on life. Terrorism, war, violence; so is euthanasia (5/30/15).
"Be responsible for this world and for the life of each person. Consider that every injustice against a poor person is an open wound and belittles your very dignity (9/20/17).
"The Church cannot be voiceless or out of tune in the defense and promotion of people with disabilities (10/21/17).
"Those who are abandoned, immigrants, and those who suffer violence and human trafficking. . .They all have human dignity because they are living images of God (9/10/17).
"Capital punishment is unacceptable, however serious the condemned’s crime may have been. . .The death penalty is contrary to the meaning of "humanitas" and to divine mercy, which must be models for human justice (3/20/15).
"It is urgent for all of us to lay the foundations of an integral ecology. . . supposes an ecology of mother earth: taking care of mother earth; with a human ecology: taking care of ourselves; and a social ecology (7/8/15).
"Defending the right to life also entails actively striving for peace, universally recognized as one of the supreme values to be sought and defended" (1/8/18).
In this month of marching for life, contemplate how you care for all aspects of life.
Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS, Director,
Office of Human Life, Dignity, and Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s I Corinthians reading:
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.
We need a variety of gifts in the Church. How boring it would be if we all had the same gift or gifts. And how deprived we would be! Paul is reminding us of our God who sees our needs and addresses them through the gifts of the different members of the Christian community.
So we ask ourselves:
"Love all my friends and all the friendships that I have made. They are like the sky. It is all part of life, like a big full plate of food for the soul. I hope I left everyone a plate of food full of happy memories, happiness and no sadness."
—Last words of Quintin Jones before he was executed on May 19, 2001 at Huntsville Prison, Texas. Media witnesses were not admitted to his execution.
This is a particularly vulnerable time for state and federal prisoners. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of the inmates listed below to let them know we have not forgotten them. If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
----Central Prison, P.O. 247 Phoenix, MD 21131
Please note: Central Prison is in Raleigh, NC., but for security purposes, mail to inmates is processed through a clearing house at the above address in Maryland.
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
On this page you can sign "The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty." Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty: http://www.pfadp.org/
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