Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B (Jan. 17, 2016)

In Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God has been turned loose in the world,changing our world forever. Imagine that you have never heard ofelectricity, and someone hands you an incandescent light bulb to examine.You might be pleased by its pear-like shape, and the smoothness of itssurface. You might admire the neat way its metal stem is joined to theglass sphere. If you broke the bulb, you would be surprised to find atangle of wires inside. You would be struck by the brittle sharpness ofthe shards in comparison to the smoothness of the intact bulb. Youwould see that the milky color of the bulb is caused by a white powder onthe inside surface of the glass.

You might make all sorts of observations, and draw all kinds ofconclusions about the light bulb, but you wouldn’t understand it. Youcouldn’t know its real purpose until someone screwed it into a socket andthrew the switch. Only when you saw the bulb burning would it becomeevident why the bulb was made; what it was for.

Our world is a bit like that light bulb. People have made all sorts ofobservations about it, and drawn all kinds of conclusions, but we can’treally understand the world until we’ve seen the Spirit of Christ burning init. When we see the Spirit shining forth in the world, we gladly discard allour old conclusions about it, in favor of a new insight into what the worldis for. It suddenly becomes clear that the world was made for thispurpose: to reveal God in Christ.

As long as electric current is flowing through our light bulb, it hasto glow. Unless it is switched off, light has to pour out of it. So it is withChrist, except that the Spirit of Christ cannot be switched off. God’sSpirit, once loosed in the world, has to produce light — has to bemanifested. The Light of the World cannot be hidden. When the wineruns out at Cana, Jesus’ mother asks him to help. Jesus responds thatthe hour of his passion has not yet come. But Mary knows that he willperform a sign — that the Spirit will be manifested in him. And so sheinstructs the waiters, “Do whatever he tells you.”

The Spirit of Christ has been loosed in the world, and is the Light ofthe World. More than anything, we want to see that light. It is thesource of our hope and our understanding. It is the only wisdom worthhaving. But, despite its importance, the presence of the Spirit in theworld isn’t evident to everyone. Not everyone at Cana appreciated themiraculous sign that Christ performed there. Apparently many went awayunaware that anything remarkable had occurred.

Jesus didn’t climb up on a table and announce, “Ladies andgentlemen I have here six jars of perfectly ordinary water which I amabout to turn into wine of the finest quality.” No, he acted in anunobtrusive way, to satisfy an ordinary human need. As far as we cantell, the only people who noticed that Jesus had performed a miraculoussign were his disciples, and the waiters who had drawn the water.So if we want to see the transforming presence of the Spirit ofChrist in the world around us, we should imitate the waiters at Cana.If,like them, we give our lives over to the service of others, and obey Mary’scommand to “Do whatever he tells you,” we will see the works and giftsof the Spirit manifested in our lives and in our world.

Fr. Charles Gordon, C.S.C.

Rev. Charles B. Gordon, C.S.C., is co-director of the Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture at the University of Portland. He writes and records a regular blog called “Fractio Verbi.”

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