Death & Christmas

Deacon Keith G. Kondrich
Executive Director
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul

A few weeks ago, in the middle of Advent, I was talking with a group of 2nd and 3rd grade Sunday School students about how God calls each of us to be a saint.  During the course of our conversation, I asked the children: “What do you have to do to become a saint?”  Their sincere and heartfelt responses included:

“Help Other People.”

“Love God with all your heart.”

“Pray a lot”

“Be Kind.”

“Listen to your parents.”

Impressed with their replies, and satisfied that I had enough material to move the discussion forward, I discontinued taking answers.  However, one little boy was undaunted and continued to fervently wave his hand.  Not wanting to squelch his enthusiasm and afraid that he might, in the words of my grandmother, “burst his britches”, I decided to let him share his answer.

“Yes, Jimmy.” I said, “Is there something else we need to do to become a saint?”

“Yes!  Yes!” he replied, “It’s the most important thing!”

“What is it Jimmy?”

“Well, the most important thing you have to do to become a saint is that you have to die!”

The class and teachers chuckled kindly. I praised Jimmy for “technically” being correct and then moved on to talk about prayer, and kindness, and loving the Lord.

Later in the day, however, as I reflected on Jimmy’s response. . .“the most important thing you have to do to become a saint is that you have to die”. . .I began to realize that he was more than just technically correct.  In fact, his words held both deep wisdom and a call to action for all of us as we approach Christmas.

During the season of Christmas, we seldom hear any references to death.  Indeed, Christmas is a time to celebrate birth; to celebrate the great hope that comes with new life.  And yet, if we delve a little deeper into the Christmas story, we find death all around us. Not physical death per se, but death of the self.  Death of those mindsets and habits and fears that prevent us from encountering the living God who comes to us as a baby in a manger.

Consider Mary.  Mary dies to herself. She lets go of her doubts, worries, and ultimately her own will. . . “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”  And through that death, she gives birth to the Savior of the world!

Think about Joseph.  Joseph dies to himself.  Rather than divorcing Mary to save his reputation, he lets go of conventional wisdom and the social proprieties of his day. . .he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” And through that death, Mary is protected and the baby Jesus is provided for.

How about the shepherds?  The shepherds die to themselves as well.  They let go of their fears and their lowly social status. . .“When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.”  And through their death the Good News of Jesus’ birth is first spread throughout the land.

Then there are the three wise men. The Magi die to themselves.  They let go of their status and riches and personal comfort to embark on a seemingly ludicrous journey; following a star to find a foreign baby in a foreign land. . .“They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.”  And through their death, they have a personal encounter with the Christ. . . a personal encounter that profoundly changes the course of their lives forever.

Each and every person we meet in the Nativity Story dies to themselves!  Rather than holding on to their old way of life, they let go and embrace a new life in Christ!

Dying to ourselves is difficult.  It was difficult for Mary. It was difficult for Joseph.  It was difficult for the shepherds and the Magi.  If we are honest with ourselves, we recognize that we usually put our own will first and foremost.  Have no doubt, our intentions are usually good and noble and nice but too often they are tainted by self-interest.  We tend to view the world through our political beliefs or our cultural prejudices or our personal hurts and wounds.  And in doing so, we miss the opportunity to become saints.  Saint Vincent de Paul puts it this way:

“What do you think is most often the cause of our failing in our resolutions?  It’s that we depend too much on ourselves, we put our trust in our good desires, we rely on our own strength, and that is the reason we don’t get any good results from them.” (Conference 70)

The Nativity Story, on the other hand, reminds us that if we die to ourselves; if we put aside those things in our lives that divert us from God (fear, resentment, status, wealth); if we open our hearts to God’s will in our lives, then we too will help give birth to Jesus in the world around us.

As we celebrate the birth of the Savior, let us pray for the grace to discern, accept, and carry out God’s will for our lives.  This Christmas, God is calling each and every one of us to become saints.  “Saint Jimmy” from Sunday School reminds us that “the most important thing we have to do to become a saint is that we have to die!”

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Convicts, Junkies, and the Face of Christ. . .

Believe it or not, after 15 years of successfully transforming the lives of hundreds of men, many local Vincentians still remain oblivious, ambivalent, and even publically opposed to the powerful work and ministry of Michael’s Place.

My heart breaks when I hear the following comments from brother and sister Vincentians:

  • “Michael’s Place? Michael’s Place?  What’s that?”
  • “Why are we providing twinning funds to a bunch of junkie drug addicts and alcoholics?”
  • “Our District Council shouldn’t be giving any money to Michael’s Place to support those convicts!”

I guess sometimes we forget that Jesus himself was one of those “convicts”!  I guess sometimes we forget that Jesus mandates, that’s right, mandates that we forgive each other “seventy times seven times”!  I guess sometimes we forget our own Rule which explicitly states “No work of charity is foreign to the Society.”  I guess sometimes we forget the poignant lesson of the prodigal son and his return to the loving embrace of his father.  I guess sometimes we forget that we are a resurrection people and that life can be raised from the tomb of criminality, addiction, despair, and hopelessness.

As Vincentians we strive to see the face of Christ in everyone we encounter.  This isn’t some bleeding heart sentiment to make us feel warm and fuzzy inside; it’s not some cutesy slogan we print on a t-shirt; it’s not the theme of some soppy greeting card!  It is a core value of our vocation as Vincentians.  Seeing the face of Christ in others is a radical challenge.  It requires a fundamental reordering of how we speak; how we act; how we live; and how we pray!  Pope Francis tells us that “God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else – God is in this person’s life.”

By far, the saddest thing that I have encountered during my 30+ year career in social services and Christian ministry is the number of people who have said to me that they are unworthy or undeserving of God’s love and forgiveness!

  • Sometimes they have been away from church for a long
  • Sometimes they have been alienated or estranged from a family member for many
  • Sometimes they have neglected their spouse or children to pursue material wealth and
  • Sometimes they have become enslaved to drugs or alcohol or pornography.
  • Sometimes they have made one-too-many bad choices leading them to a life of crime.

And while their circumstances all vary, and they express it in different words, what they have in common is this. . .they feel like they are unredeemable!  Unredeemable!  Where does that feeling come from? Certainly it does not come from God, whose love and forgiveness are infinite and eternal.  Rather, that feeling comes from us.  That feeling comes from those of us who call ourselves “Christians”.  That feeling comes from those of us who are quick to condemn, quick to judge, and quick to settle for simple answers to complex problems!

Fortunately our God scatters the seeds of his love everywhere, indiscriminately…on the bad soil as well as the good because His love for us is never wasted! He is constantly inviting us to a deeper relationship with him and no matter how many times we turn down or ignore his invitations, there will always be an infinite number of others.  Think about the thief who was crucified with Christ.  By all accounts, he was a murderer and bandit. . .one of the worst kinds of criminals.  The kind of person we would look at today and say “what a waste”.  The kind of person we might say “don’t waste your time with him” and yet even after a lifetime of lawlessness God doesn’t give up on him.  At the last minute he understands and accepts God’s invitation and Jesus tells him. . .“today you will be with me in Paradise!”  Today we know that penitent thief as Saint Dismas!

Consider Saint Paul.  Do you remember what Saint Paul did before he finally accepted an invitation from Christ?  His name was Saul of Tarsus and he was in charge of hunting down and killing Christians!  His job, which he embraced whole-heartedly was to destroy this new movement known as Christianity!  And we think there is a war on religion today!  Compared to Saul, the politicians and secularists of our day are lightweights!  And yet even after a career of persecuting Christians, God did not give up on Paul; and when Paul finally accepts God’s invitation, he goes on to become one of the greatest Apostles of all time, helping to spread the Gospel of Jesus throughout the world!

God refused to give up on guys like Saint Dismas and Saint Paul and God refuses to give up on the men at Michael’s Place!  Can we, who call ourselves “Vincentians” and “Christians”, afford to be any less generous, any less forgiving?  Can we choose to give up on the men at Michael’s Place?

Our Catholic tradition supports the community’s right to establish and enforce laws that protect people and advance the common good. But our faith also teaches us that both victims and offenders have a God-given dignity that calls for justice, not vengeance; forgiveness, not condemnation. The bishops of the United States, in their 2000 pastoral statement entitled Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, remind us that “Just as God never abandons us, so too we must be in covenant with one another. We are all sinners, and our response to sin and failure should not be abandonment and despair, but rather justice, contrition, reparation, and return or re-integration of all into the community.”

And so, if you’re feeling oblivious, ambivalent, or even publically opposed to the powerful work and ministry of Michael’s Place, our home of hope and recovery, I ask you to do three things:

  1. Pray. Simply pray for the men who have come to us seeking recovery, seeking forgiveness, seeking reconciliation with their families, seeking community.  Pray that they will, as God promises, find what they are seeking.
  2. Learn. Learn more about what we do and who we serve at Michael’s Place.  Go to our website at svdppitt.org and find out for yourself how our incredible staff, volunteers, and alumni, through the grace of God, are using very limited resources to bring unlimited mercy, unlimited hope, and unlimited potential to our residents.  Read The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul’s national position paper on restorative justice which can be found on SVdP-USA’s Voice of the Poor website at SVdP.Position.Papers. Go to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s website at USCCB.Criminal.Justice, and survey the many documents related to criminal justice and our response as disciples of Christ.
  3. Visit. Visit Michael’s Place and talk with the “convicts” and the “junkies”.  Look them in the eye and listen to their stories.  Let them minister to you. Let their stories remind you of and reconnect you with God’s mercy. Let them help you to grow in holiness.  Let them show you the face of Christ!

There is a great novel entitled Ransom Seaborn by local Pittsburgh author and musician, Bill Deasy.  Toward the end of the story, an old man and a young man are having a conversation about God.  The old man shares this piece of wisdom with the young man:

“What I am asking is how do you picture God?  Can you define him. . .or her?   Let me tell you what I think.  I remember how I felt about my son the very first moment I laid eyes on him.  I mean I thought I knew what love was before then, but it was nothing like what I felt for him.  And in that moment, when he was just a newborn baby I already forgave him for anything wrong he would ever do in his life.  Anything!  I loved him unconditionally.  Imagine how God loves us.  I mean I am just a weak, struggling human being and I could honestly have forgiven my son anything you could imagine, any sin at all.  Multiply that by about a thousand.  That’s God.”

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Keith G. Kondrich
Executive Director
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul – Council of Pittsburgh
October 17, 2016

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Weeding Frenzies!

A Reflection on Matthew 13:24-30
Deacon Keith G. Kondrich, Executive Director
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul – Diocesan Council of Pittsburgh

My first apartment out of college was a carriage house above the garage of a very wealthy and well-to-do retired couple in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, near the University of Pittsburgh campus.

It was the ultimate bachelor “pad” in the heart of Pittsburgh’s academic, cultural, and music scene. I was in my glory!

The best part of the deal was that the apartment was rent-free! In lieu of rent, the couple had me do various household tasks and errands. Once a week they would leave a list chores for me to complete such as cutting the grass, washing the cars, watering household plants, and weeding the garden.

When “weeding the garden” appeared on my weekly chore list for the first time, I gathered up my metal rake and hoe and attacked the overgrown garden plot with zealous abandon. After 3 or 4 hours of hard labor, I had purged the garden of all of the atrocious-looking weeds. Everything was dug up and disposed of. The soil was neatly raked and perfectly graded! Later that afternoon, there was a frantic knock on my door. It was my landlady, distraught and furious!

“Mr. Kondrich”, she exclaimed, “What have you done? What have you done to my beautiful garden?”

Not sure why she was so distressed, I replied, “I weeded it, just like you asked me to. Is there a problem?”

“Is there a problem,” she cried, “Yes, there is a problem! You pulled up all of my beautiful plants with the weeds! There is nothing left! You have destroyed hundreds of dollars worth of rare plants!”

Apparently, in my weeding frenzy, I had never bothered to consider the difference between the weeds and the flowers. I simply uprooted everything in my desire to create a clean and perfect garden plot.

 

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus uses the parable of the wheat and the weeds to warn us against weeding frenzies. In the parable, an enemy sows weeds all through a landowner’s wheat crop so that when the crop grows and bears fruit, the weeds are intertwined with the wheat. The landowner’s servants offer to go and “pull up” the weeds, however, the landowner tells them, “No. If you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.” The landowner tells his servants to let the wheat and weeds grow together until the harvest, at which time he, the landowner, will take care of the harvest.

We have to be very careful that we don’t succumb to the temptation of thinking that we know the difference between the wheat and the weeds in the world around us. Jesus tells us not to be so quick to judge others. He tells us to be on guard against our tendency to “root out” or condemn those we consider to be “weeds”.

We identify weeds by the way they dress.

We identify weeds by the way they talk.

We identify weeds by the political party that they belong to.

We identify weeds by the religious faith that they practice.

We identify weeds by their sexual orientation, or ethnic background, or employment status, or any one of a hundred other characteristics.

Certainly, in America today, especially during this highly-charged political season, there is no lack of opinion on who are the weeds and who are the wheat. And we do not hesitate to whip ourselves into a weeding frenzy of self-righteous words, and pious attitudes, and virtuous acts, never realizing that we might be pulling up the wheat with the weeds.

Jesus makes it clear that it is NOT our job to separate the wheat from the weeds! We are not responsible for the harvest – HE is! Our job is to help sow the seeds. . .to help proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God! The good news of God’s love for us! The good news of redemption! The good news of eternal life! That is our job!

Whenever I am tempted to write-off somebody as one of the weeds, I think of Saint Paul. Do you remember what Saint Paul did before he finally accepted an invitation to serve the Lord? His name was Saul of Tarsus and he was in charge of hunting down and killing Christians! His job, which he embraced wholeheartedly, was to weed out and destroy this dangerous new movement known as Christianity! The early Christian community viewed Saul as one of the weeds – indeed probably THE weed, literally choking the life out of the wheat. And yet, even after a career of persecuting Christians, God did not give up on Saul. When Saul finally accepts God’s invitation, he is reborn as Paul! And Paul goes on to become one of the greatest Apostles of all time, helping to spread the Gospel of Jesus throughout the world!

Isn’t it a good thing that the early Christians didn’t take it upon themselves to weed out Saul? Can you imagine how very different our Church and World would be today without the witness and writings of Saint Paul?

My brothers and sisters, the next time we are tempted to use our words, or attitudes, or actions to uproot the “weeds” around us because of their looks, or politics, or faith, let us remember that only God can distinguish between the wheat and the weeds! We don’t have the full picture. Only God has the full picture! God is in charge of the harvest, not us! If God can take a weed, like Saul of Tarsus and turn him into a fertile stalk of wheat like Saint Paul, can you imagine what miracles he can work. . .what miracles he is working right now. . .with the weeds in our world; with the weeds in your life? Can you imagine?!

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Easter Resolutions. . .

A reflection by Deacon Keith Kondrich
Executive Director
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul

My youngest son, Tommy, has been an altar-server at our parish for a number of years now but because of our family schedules and other conflicts, he has never had the opportunity to serve the Easter Vigil. This year, he was available and enthusiastically interested in serving the Easter Vigil with me. If you have ever attended the Easter Vigil, you know that it is a beautiful celebration of our Lord’s glorious resurrection, the triumph of light over darkness, the victory of life over death!

After the vigil, during the car ride home, my son and I were talking about Easter and he said to me, “You know what dad, I think that instead of making New Year’s Resolutions, we should make Easter resolutions!” Intrigued by his comment, I replied, “Why do you say that? Tell me more!”

“Well,” he said, “Think about it. We make New Year’s Resolutions at the worst time of the year. It is usually cold and dark and dreary and snowy. People are depressed because the holidays are over. They’re coming off a time of excess. . .excess food, excess drink, excess spending, excess partying. Springtime, the promise of new life and the hope of change, seems like a long way off!

“Easter would be a much better time to make resolutions because it is usually warmer, brighter, and the flowers are starting to bloom. People are excited. . .Spring & Summer are just around the corner. It is daylight longer. And people are coming off of a time of fasting and discipline – they’ve already had 40 days of practice during Lent to strengthen and keep an Easter Resolution!”

As a person who often fails to keep the many resolutions that I make every New Year, my son’s suggestion about Easter Resolutions really got me thinking! After all, Easter is about resurrection, a fresh start, beginning a new life with our risen Lord! Perhaps he was on to something about carrying the spiritual, emotional, and physical disciplines of Lent forward into and beyond the Easter season; indeed, throughout the rest of the year! The Gospel accounts of the various reactions to the empty tomb as well as the initial encounters with the Risen Christ provide us with three Easter Resolutions to consider.

Resolution #1. . .Eliminate fear in our lives! Aren’t we tired of being afraid all the time? Afraid of terrorists, afraid of politicians, afraid of immigrants, afraid of strangers, afraid of global warming, afraid of suffering, afraid of death! When Mary Magdalene encounters Jesus outside of the empty tomb, he tells her. . .“do not be afraid!” He tells us the same thing. . . “do not be afraid!”

In his Easter Homily this year, Pope Francis reminds us that “Christians are called to be people of joy and hope. Jesus frees us from being Christians without hope, who live as if the Lord were not risen, as if our problems were the center of our lives. Let us not allow darkness and fear to distract us and control us; we must cry out to them: the Lord is not here, but has risen! He is our greatest joy; he is always at our side and will never let us down.”

Certainly there are a lot of scary things in our world today but as Christians, we do not let fear dominate and control our lives. We know that our story did not end in the darkness and despair and horror of Good Friday. Our story has no end – just a beautiful, joyful, hopeful new beginning. Our story is eternal!

Resolution #2. . .Share the Good News! After the resurrection, Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room where they are cowering, and tells them “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature!” That is what my son and I felt empowered to do after leaving the Easter Vigil. We were beaming with joy! We were confident in our faith! We were downright excited and we wanted everyone to know it!

Pope Francis continues his Easter Homily, saying “As joyful servants of hope, we must announce the Risen One by our lives and by our love; and so awaken and resurrect hope in hearts burdened by sadness, in those who struggle to find meaning in life.”

So many people in our world, in our communities, in workplaces, and even in our churches are hungry for the Good News of salvation! We have a sacred duty to share that Good News with them; to share the joy of Easter! The Good News trumps every story of doom and gloom on the nightly newscasts.

Resolution #3. . .Eliminate the “bribes” that “keep us out of trouble”! After the resurrection, some of the guards go into the city and tell the chief priests what had happened. The stone has been rolled away! The tomb is empty! Jesus is not there! Desperate to deny and hide the truth, the chief priests meet with the elders, discuss the situation, and give the soldiers a large sum of money (bribe) telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’ And if this gets to the ears of the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”

Who are the chief priests in our lives that want us to keep silent about the truth? Who are the elders who want us to make up a story about Jesus’ body being stolen so we can keep out of trouble? We can’t let pride, or fear, or prejudice, or political parties, or polite company “bribe” us from sharing the truth; bribe us from speaking out against injustice; bribe us from challenging the prophets of despair; bribe us from recognizing a sister or brother in the face of a stranger; bribe us from sharing our joy and excitement over the fact that we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – Jesus Christ who has conquered death and darkness!

Let’s make an Easter resolution. . .an Easter Resolution to carry our Lenten momentum and Easter Joy forward – throughout the rest of the year and throughout the rest of our lives!

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Have You Had The Class Yet?

A reflection on John 2:1-11 by Deacon Keith G. Kondrich

During my five-and-a-half years of study and formation for the permanent diaconate, my dad would occasionally ask me this question. . .

“Did you have THE class yet?”

I would say, “What class?” and he would respond, “You know, THE class!”  And again, I would reply, “What class? What are you talking about?”

My dad would end the conversation by saying, “Well, you must not have had THE class yet but you’ll know. . .you’ll know when you have it!”

His little riddle went on for a couple of years; every now and then he would ask me how deacon classes were going and then he would always pose the question: “Did you have THE class yet?”

After a while I just couldn’t take it anymore!  So the next time he asked, “Did you have THE class yet?”. . .I lost it. . .I broke down and said “WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!?  YOU’RE DRIVING ME NUTS!  WHAT CLASS!?”

My dad grinned mischievously and said. . . “You know, the class where they teach you how to turn water into wine!”

I actually think that my dad was a little disappointed when I told him that they really don’t teach you how to change water into wine at the seminary.

The description of Jesus’s first miracle, as recounted in the Gospel of John 2:1-11, is familiar to most Christians. Jesus, his mother, and his disciples are attending a wedding banquet in the town of Cana.  At some point, during the celebration, the wine runs out and, at the request of his mother, Jesus miraculously turns water into fine wine, thereby saving the bridal party from embarrassment.  John, the Evangelist, ends his account by stating that Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.”

Often we interpret the miracle at Cana as a gesture of kindness, on the part of Jesus, to help the wedding party avoid humiliation.  But it was more than that!  Sometimes we interpret the miracle at Cana as a reminder of the special relationship between Mary and Jesus.  But it was more than that!

When Jesus miraculously turns water into wine, He is giving everyone there. . .the wedding party, the guests, the disciples, and even his own mother a sign. . .a sign that reveals His very purpose!  Jesus is announcing His mission!  He hasn’t come to simply transform water into wine. . . .He has come to transform the world!

Just when the circumstances looked desperate; just when it appeared that anxiety was going to conquer joy; just when everything seemed hopeless. . .Jesus stepped in and TRANSFORMED the situation. . .not just for the bridal party, but for the world!

The lack of wine at the wedding feast symbolized something else that was lacking.  The people of Israel themselves were lacking hope. For many, many years the people had been waiting and waiting for a savior; only to be disappointed time and time again by false prophets and phony messiahs.  Like the empty wine jars at the wedding banquet, the faith of the people of Israel was running dry.  Their souls were parched by the formalistic. . .empty. . .religion of the Pharisees. The people longed for a time when, in the words of the prophet, Isaiah 62:4, No more shall people call you Forsaken, or your land Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight, and your land Espoused.”

The people at the wedding in Cana saw water turned into wine. Impressive, yes, but really not that important in the larger scheme of things, unless. . .unless, we understand John’s reason for including this episode in his Gospel. In this first sign, John recognized that Jesus’ entire mission was to transform:

  • to transform the water of despair into the wine of hope.
  • to transform the water of unbelief into the wine of faith.
  • to transform the water of condemnation into the wine of forgiveness.
  • to transform the water of death into the wine of eternal life!

Jesus’ mission continues to transform our lives today.  Pope Francis says that “The wedding at Cana is repeated in every generation, in every family, in every one of us and our efforts to let our hearts find rest in strong, fruitful and joyful love.” 

Has your life been transformed by the “strong, fruitful, and joyful love” of Jesus?  Or, do you find yourself running out of the wine of faith; running out of the wine of joy; running out of the wine of hope? Perhaps doubt or anxiety has drained the wine of faith from your life. Perhaps personal illness or the sudden death of a loved one has drained the wine of joy from your life.  Perhaps the fear of global terrorism or local violence has drained the wine of hope from your life.

Whatever reason you might have for running out of wine, Mary, the mother of Jesus, provides us with the remedy.  In the Gospel account of the miracle at Cana, Mary first approaches Jesus with the problem. . .“They have no wine.”  Then she tells the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”

The first thing we need to do when we run out of wine is turn to Jesus and tell him, “Lord we have no wine.” Like Mary, we have to place our problems and concerns in Christ’s hands:

  • Not in the hands of the latest technology!
  • Not in the hands of the loudest politician or celebrity or musician!
  • Not in the hands of the newest gadget!

When something is lacking in our lives, we need to go to Christ first.

Second, we need to heed Mary’s words and “do whatever He tells us!”  We must listen to Jesus.  Of course, listening to Jesus is easier said than done. We are constantly surrounded by the clamor of people who want us to listen to them!  There is no lack of people telling us what to do:

  • Buy this product!
  • Vote for this candidate!
  • Use this pill!
  • Ignore this rule!
  • Ban these people!
  • Condemn this person!

In telling the servants to do whatever he tells you, Mary reminds us to open our hearts to Jesus.  Jesus is constantly speaking to our hearts through prayer, through scripture, through the sacraments, through the teachings of the Church, through service to one another.  We just need to make time to listen.

Today, 2,000+ years after the miracle at Cana, Jesus continues to transform water into wine!

Years ago, when my father asked me if I had the class yet. . .had I taken the class on how to turn water into wine. . .my response should have been, “YES! Yes, I have had the class. . .and guess what. . .so have you Dad!” 

And so have each and every one of us who call ourselves “Christians.”  All of us have “had the class!”  The Lord’s mission of transformation is now our mission!  We have been transformed by our Baptism and we continue to be transformed each and every time we receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist!

  • We turn water into wine every time we share our faith with someone who has lost hope.
  • We turn water into wine every time we go out of our way to befriend someone who is lonely. . .or comfort someone who is sick. . . or attend to the needs of someone who is poor.
  • We turn water into wine every time we put the needs of our spouse, our children, our friends, or that stranger on the bus, ahead of our own needs.

We have all “had the class”. . . now it is time to take what we have learned, to take what we have been given, through the grace of God. . . and transform the world!

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