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Transformation in the Parish

“Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:3).

We all know the story of King Midas. He had a golden touch. Everything he came into contact with changed. An oak twig, stone, garden and palace, all of it, with a slight stroke, transformed into priceless gold. So, today, we read about another marvel, but not a myth, a reality. Like Midas, Jesus Christ has a miraculous touch. Anything, whatever it is, when touched by our Lord, is transformed. Jesus Christ changed water into wine. He took something bitter and made it sweet. He took something hideous and made it beautiful. He took something dead and made it alive.

In our gospel today, we read, “There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.” When the wine ran out, Mary told his son to get to work. It’s such a sweet passage and shows so much about our Lord’s humanity. You have to imagine his smile, saying to his mother, “My hour hasn’t come.” But mother had spoken, what good Jewish boy could resist, so he used his power. “Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward’” (John 2:1-11). The water had turned to wine, not tasteless wine, but wine rich, fortifying, and enlivening. In the same way, everything in our lives will be transformed, when it passes through the hands of Christ.

This is God’s promise to us, His Church. Perhaps, the greatest miracle in history is that the Church continues to stand. I’ve often wondered what God was thinking when He entrusted the Church to us. From the first day of Pentecost, the odds were against the Church. Twelve fishermen made its foundation, each with their own problems. As time went by, the fishermen were replaced with the bishops, each with their own baggage and blemishes. Church History is a mixed bag. It can read as a tale of scandal, fighting, misunderstandings and division. This is, on the one hand, the tale that you hear nowadays in schoolrooms and T.V. series, but it isn’t complete. There is another side of the story.

Christianity was a revolution of revolutions. It transformed society utterly. It introduced a degree of human rights, charity, science and arts to the world never known before. It ushered mankind into joy never felt. Most importantly, it produced holiness. The Church took men and women from every corner of society and made them saints. Some were born in wealth and others in poverty. Some were raised in monasteries and others in brothels. Some were great intellects and others simple. Yet, every saint was born broken before becoming whole. God’s power to transform lives is not limited. Like the foul water turned into wine, all who come to Christ are changed.

Isn’t this the entire Gospel? St. Paul began his career as a Pharisee and murderer. In Acts, chapter 9, verse 1, we read that Paul was “breathing threats and murder” against the Church. What a colorful description. You can imagine his heart, so choked up with hate that it breathed hate. The air about him was drenched in it. Yet, this same Paul, when he passed under the light of Jesus Christ was made new. The antagonist of the faith became the pillar of the faith. What was foul and dark became sweet and bright. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). The water is transformed into wine.

Each spring, our parishes hold their all-annual parish meetings. Each year, these are like New Years for the parish. What will we bring into the year ahead? What must we leave behind us? In a spirit of joy and with the goal of harmony, what vision will we share together? The same revolution seen in the life of St. Paul and the saints, the same revolution seen in society made Christian, is the revolution seen in the little parish. Each of us has wounds. We all have our fears, shortcomings, and pet peeves. Yet, God brings us together for a purpose. Together, we are being transformed from glory to glory. God didn’t make a mistake when he left the Church to twelve fishermen. He doesn’t make a mistake when he brings a parish together and tells us to be the kingdom. What is our mission? To be transformed together.

But there’s a requirement. In order to do God’s work as a parish, we have to be willing to abandon ourselves to Him. Like the water changed to wine, we have to sift through His hands. The author of Hebrews wrote, “By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned” (11:29). Each year in Christ, we pass through that red sea. We must not let the Egyptians in our hearts pass through. We must leave them behind. All anger, all hurt, all frustration must be drowned in the sea. We can’t carry it through into the journey. We need hearts clean and refreshed.

What should our vision be in 2019? It should be the same vision given at the Wedding of Cana. Can you see Christ looking at those water jars? He knew they were foul. He might have wrinkled his nose, saying, “Oy vey! Is this what I have to work with!” Instead, he looked at that water the way he looks at us. He saw the potential, the beauty within. It only needed to pass through his hands. The water became wine. Our baggage, our mistakes, our weaknesses, all that we have done and everything that we have to offer, when given to Christ will be transformed. We need only to look to Christ.

“Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:3).

When I look at my family parish I can say there is no parish I would rather share my life with. God has brought us together for a purpose. He has given us each other to love and serve, promising to us who look to Him a transformation from glory to glory.


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