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1/20/19 Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Reggie

Does God really want us to be happy? Of course we all know what we should say. But do we really believe it? The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said that Christianity is opposed to joy. Many people today would probably say the same thing.

Is it true? Does God really want us to be happy? What does the Bible tell us? Today in the gospel we just read the miracle at Cana. Isn’t it interesting that in the gospel of John, Jesus’ first miracle is at a wedding? You might expect it to be in the temple – after all, He is the Son of God. But it’s at a wedding. Let’s unpack the scene. Jesus is at a small party. And the wine runs out. Bishop Fulton Sheen used to joke that maybe the reason the wine ran out was because Jesus and the apostles had crashed the party after tramping around Galilee for a few days. But in any case, Jesus’ mother Mary tells him the wine is gone. And then she tells the headwaiter “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus tells the waiter to fill up 6 ceremonial jars with water.

We’re all familiar with what happens next. Actually, maybe we’re too familiar with it. Sometimes it’s good to step back for a minute and consider what the Bible actually says. Jesus turns the water into wine. But remember the context. It’s probably a relatively small party. People have already been drinking freely. You might expect Jesus to make a few more gallons of wine and then tell everyone to call it a night. Do you know how much wine he makes? Somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of wine! That’s close to 900 bottles! God is not stingy. Jesus is saying that this celebration is good.

John also tells us that this miracle revealed Christ’s glory. God glories in our joy. God is overwhelmingly generous. St Thomas Aquinas has a phrase: “Goodness is diffusive of itself.” This means that goodness spreads by its own power. And since God is all good, he can’t contain his generosity. It overflows into every corner of our lives.

So does God actually want us to be happy? Does He want to fill our lives with joy? Yes.

We’re created in the image and likeness of God, who is generous. So when we are generous we start to share in God’s joy.  In the summer of 2015 a man and a woman got married in the Turkish city of Kilis. In and of itself, that fact is beautiful but perhaps not all that extraordinary. And what they did at their wedding reception is striking, and illustrates that generosity brings joy.

The bride and groom decided to invite 4,000 Syrian refugees to their reception, and they helped to serve them lunch with their own hands. The bride said: “I was shocked when Fetullah (the bridegroom) first told me about the idea, but afterwards I was won over by it. It was such a wonderful experience. I’m happy we had the opportunity to share our wedding meal with the people who are in real need.”

They experienced the joy of their own generosity with others. 

There’s an important corollary to all this. We are also truly fulfilled when we rejoice with others. What’s my first reaction when I hear of someone else’s success?  How do I respond to the joys of my friends?  How do I react to the joys of those who have offended me?

Life is not a zero-sum game – if you win, I lose. On the contrary. The gifts of one are the gifts of all, and if we rejoice with others it opens wonderful new windows in our own lives to the action of God.

This is the image of Christianity that attracts. We’re not closed in and fearful; we rejoice in the good things God has given us, and we rejoice in the good things he has given others. 

And this attitude does not come overnight. It’s a gift from God, and it’s one we need to ask for. So today in the Mass let’s ask Jesus to show us any roadblocks in our hearts that impede us from sharing in others’ joy, and let’s ask him to help us to truly rejoice with them.  

 

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