I have a funny little habit. I try to find God in songs I hear on the radio. Not obvious Christian songs but songs that are popular and maybe not really intended to be spiritual. This song by Phillip Phillips has really hit me lately. Give it a listen.
Home. It’s more than a building, right? It’s the memories of what happens there. It’s where love resides. It’s where you are always welcome. Like in another song from “Cheers”, it’s where everybody knows your name. There has been laughter and there have been tears at home. You can wear your pjs and nobody cares.
“Settle down, it’ll all be clear.”
Think about the Exodus. The Israelites never felt at home where they were. They longed for it. They traveled far for it, even though they weren’t sure how it would all turn out. They knew they could find a home where it would all be okay. God told them they would and they trusted that. Home is where God is.
“Don’t pay no mind to the demons; they fill you with fear”
Except when you don’t have that kind of home, right? What then? We will hear all about that this Sunday in the Gospel reading (Luke 4:21-30). Jesus is not welcome in his hometown…so much so that they try to throw him off a cliff. “But he passed through the midst of them and went away,” (Luke 4:30). Why does he do that? He’s paying no mind to “the demons”. That’s not home for him anymore. Home is where God is.
“Just know you’re not alone cause I’m going to make this place your home”
God is always with us. No matter what we do. God is where love resides. God is love. We are always welcome to God. God knows us. God wants to be a part of our laughter and tears. We can wear our pjs all day long with God and God wouldn’t care. Home is where God is.
Imagine the drama. Jesus stands up in his hometown synagogue, unrolls the massive scroll of the prophet Isaiah and reads aloud this passage:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Then in just a nine word homily (you should be so lucky) he proclaims, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
What a powerful moment, to be able to claim such authority, to announce a new day has begun because the Spirit of the Lord which touched the great prophet had now come to rest on Jesus. I wish that I could proclaim such lofty goals and then say I can make them a reality.
Of course I can. You see, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me. And if you are baptized, he has done the same to you. We are not just spectators who claim the name of Christ and sit back and wait with bated breath as he prepares to launch a new world. No, as sharers of the same Spirit as Jesus, we are in the game, dedicated to make this vision a living thing, a way of life. This is what we are called to; this is what we are made for.
And it begins with preaching the good news to the poor, to promising liberty to captives, sight to the blind and justice for the oppressed. Why must it begin in this way? Because the Word of God does not miss a thing. It hits every blade of grass. If even those who are most easily ignored, the ones we must go out of our way to find, the least powerful and obvious, if even they are promised the kingdom, then everyone is included. The word of God does not start at the top and then hopefully seeps to where it is least expected. It begins with the poor and disenfranchised the forgotten and discarded. They are our first priority. To make a new world in Christ we must begin where he did where the divisions we see are obliterated by the grace of God.
That is what St. Paul saw as the result of Christ’s action. The things we thought separated us no longer exist. Jews saw nothing as important a division as between true believers and not, between Jews and Greeks. Now there are no Jews or Greeks. It does not even matter if you are a slave or free. We have all melted into the Body of Christ. Jesus is what defines us now.
That is why Catholic education is so critical. We need a place where we can proclaim glad tidings, where the good news is preached and cherished. Where everyone who comes can hear this astounding message of liberty and love. Where it does not matter what you have or where you came from you will be valued simply as a child of God. We know your worthy because you are made in the image of God. Where our first priority, indeed our mission before anything else, is to love the child; to love them as Jesus Christ loves them. That is the Spirit that rings through the halls of St. Kateri. Our children are hold as precious as God’s gift and they are told the secrets of divine love in whatever we teach and share. That is the sense you get at Notre Dame Bishop Gibbons where the power of the communal concern and the responsibility to live by the Gospel have created a tremendous force of good in the city. Both places are the Body of Christ alive and thriving.
And that is who we must be as well. Jesus ends his announcement with the promise to “proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” In this, the first year of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish and St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish School, let us, as God’s anointed announce a year of favor to the Lord. Let us become Christ’s Body. Let us come to this table and be transformed into what we eat as receive Christ’s body. Let us be transformed within these walls and then transform our community, nation and world beyond these walls. What will that look like? St. Paul reminds us that, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.”
Then we must begin where Jesus began. We must find those who are suffering and offer them healing. As every part of a body rushes to heal that is wounded we must ensure that all hear the good news, we must be a reason of hope for those who are poor; we must set free those who are held captive and visit our prisoners; we must shed light and overcome the blindness of ignorance. We must be a vanguard of justice for those who are oppressed. We must protect the unborn; we must be the voice of the voiceless; we must be strength for the weak and shelter for the homeless. We must be a beacon of hope that defeats the darkness of oppression.
And when we do all that, this will be a year of favor to the Lord, an acceptable year. For all will know that Jesus is alive; that his word is still spoken and his power still heals. A year of favor at St. Kateri’s means we will be truly the Body of Christ. And we will change the world.
The wedding feast at Cana is the first sign that Jesus gives in John’s gospel and I always found it a strange sign. After all, with all the disease and injustice in the world, why would you choose turning water into wine as your first sign? What kind of Messiah would do that? Then I thought about it and realized something. My kind of Messiah would do that.
Not just because he made a lot of wine but for everything that stands for. The psalmist tells us that God gave us wine to bring cheer to human hearts. It means that all of God’s signs point to joy. Wine is always associated with life. It is no surprise that what we will become the promise of life in the precious blood of our Lord starts with wine. Wine means the burgeoning of faith and hope in this life.
And not only did Jesus make wine, he made a lot of it. Something like 150 gallons! Later in the Gospel he will say that he came not only that we might have life, but life more abundant. Abudanza! We are to experience this life and drink it to the dregs.
Thus, the Christian life is not meant to be small, insignificant and tasteless. It is meant to be large, bold and life changing. Our experience of Jesus Christ should transform each moment of every day. We should like at each encounter, every opportunity as a chance to develop something extraordinary. Like a grape about to burst it bounds, life in Christ promises something exceptional.
How do we live this life of extraordinary capability and possibility? We must follow the instructions of Mary to the servants. “Do whatever he tells you.” If we can accomplish that we will turn water into wine.
The first step in “Doing in whatever he tells you” is to actually do it. That is often the hardest part. Think of those poor servers knowing that they are out of wine and thinking that pouring water into those jars is not going to solve the problem. But for some reason they do it. “Doing whatever he tells you” is often like that. It sounds to us as somehow off, but that is often a sign that it may not be our idea, but God’s. If it is a life-giving and loving idea, yet still out of the ordinary or our comfort zone, listen carefully. If it tells you to go where you did not expect to go, to reconcile with the one you did not expect to reconcile, to give more than you thought you possessed, “Do whatever he tells you.” It may take you into service or a pilgrimage or a relationship you did not expect, but if you want to make water into wine, you must have the courage to follow in faith.
Secondly, you must pray about it. Those moments when God is ready to take hold of your life will go unnoticed unless you are in the midst of prayer. Prayer attunes us to when God is calling for more and when God is willing to give us more than we expect. Embedded in our communication with God is the promise of life more abundant.
And finally, we must trust. Our results are likely to take longer than Jesus turning water into wine. We need to be deeply convicted that the Lord is calling us on a path and have sturdy legs to maintain staying on that path. But Jesus will unfold like a tapestry the life of exciting and bold love we long for.
I believe that every single person here is intelligent enough, capable enough and reasonable enough to turn water into water. But if you want to live a different life; if you want not just to be friendly but a friend; if you want to not just give enough, or more, but give everything. If you want to build your life on bold beautiful love; if you want to live the way God created us to be, then learn to “Do whatever he tells you” and you will be making water into wine.
His mother says to the waiters:
“Whatsoever he shall say to you, do” 
How many of you made a New Year’s Resolution this year? How are those working so far? I must say I’ve already noticed that there are fewer people at the gym now then there was right after the beginning of the new year. Perhaps the vow to not eat so many desserts has proven less successful than you’d hope. Yet every year we do the same thing, time in and time out. Why is this? Why do we set up for ourselves these epic challenges only to have them fall short? How many of us resolve ourselves to write a book, run a marathon or learn a new language only to have them remain unaccomplished by this time next year.
There is a psychiatry blog I regularly follow, because, you know, I’m a nerd. Anyways she offered an insight into this phenomenon which I would like to share with you. Now, please keep in mind today’s gospel because I assure you we will be getting back to it. But first this reflection. The psychiatrist’s hypotheses was that:
<is better/easier than>
Feeling terrible about yourself
<is better/easier than>
The mental energy required for change
That paradigm right there is governing our lives. What we actually find in those moments of honesty is that we don’t want to really change. What we’re really wanting is to be more acceptable versions of the person we already are. We don’t want to be better, we want to be accepted for who we are. This is a painful, yet if we’re honest, true assessment of ourselves. How many times do we hear the phrase, “They accept me for who I am,” or “I just gotta be me”? These phrases show the truth of the above mentioned thesis.
So, let’s see how this human behavior is present in Scripture. First, let’s look a little ahead in John’s gospel to John 8, wherein we find the story of the woman caught in adultery. Now, we’re all familiar with the story, but as a recap let’s work through it.
Early in the morning He [Jesus] came again to the temple;
all the people came to him, and He sat down and taught them.
The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery,
and placing her in the midst, they said to him:
“Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.
Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?”
This they said to test Him, that they might have some charge to bring against Him.
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
And as they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them,
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest,
and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him.
Jesus looked up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they? Has no one accused you?”
She said, “No one Lord.”
And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and now sin no more.” 
Alright. Now, obviously we can say a great deal about this narrative, but I’d like you to consider the following. Who do you relate to in this story? For many of us, we look at the woman and see ourselves in her place, finding comfort in Jesus’ forgiveness and mercy. Now this is certainly true, but it’s not who you should be relating to. Some people relate to Jesus, and say, “see, that’s why I never judge anyone.” But I must say, if you find yourself equating yourself with the Son of God, you might have an issue of pride. But that’s not who you should be comparing yourself with. I contend that we are the Pharisees of the story.
You see, the Pharisees and scribes don’t really care about the woman caught in adultery. They want to be affirmed in their awesomeness. Jesus in the chapter just before had proceeded to wreck havoc with their supposed obedience with the law. So here was a chance for them to not only be better in the eyes of the law (look, we follow the law without fail), but also a chance for Jesus to affirm their way of doing things. Yet notice what Jesus does to them. He doesn’t pardon excuse what she’s done or say it’s ok. He doesn’t offer them some way to look at the law in a new light by negating it. Rather he forces them to examine themselves. Let he who is without sin. The next part is crucial though. They walk away. Rather than stay and hear a better way, they walk away. Many of us do the same thing, we hear the story and say, “See? We’re all sinners. Who could do better?” And we walk away, feeling terrible about ourselves. Why? Because, feeling terrible about ourselves is easier than the mental work necessary for change. If you walk away from this story with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, than you’ve missed the story, because it’s implications are horrifying. What are the last words Jesus says? He doesn’t say, “try to be better” or “try not to do it again.” No, Jesus gives a command: Go and now sin no more.
What does this have to do with today’s Gospel? I’m glad you asked. I’d love to tell you. The water at the wedding comes from the ceremonial jugs. It was probably the best water they could get. After all, this was the water that would be needed for purifying themselves before they did any sacred act. But the wedding didn’t need water. It didn’t matter that it was the best water you could find. They needed wine. Jesus offered a solution to the problem by creating something that didn’t exist before hand. He not only made wine out of water, but it was the best of wine. It is the same in our world today. The world doesn’t need more nice people. It doesn’t need better people. The world needs saints.
That’s been the point of the entirety of salvation history, to make something new. In Ezekiel 36.26 the Lord says, A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you: and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. In Revelation, the Lord who sits upon the throne says, Behold, I make all things new. In I Peter, Saint Peter writes, Once you were no people, but now you are God’s people. In Ephesians, the Apostle says, Put off your old nature which belongs to your former way of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Christ came to create something new. He came to make saints. And yet when I say that we must all become saints, how many of us respond, “oh, I couldn’t be a saint. That’s too hard.” Because it’s easier to feel horrible about ourselves than the mental work necessary for change.
The Lord calls us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. How do we go about this task? The answer is found in today’s gospel. The Blessed Mother tells the servants, Whatever he says, do. That’s the essence of authentic Marian devotion and it’s the essence of Christian discipleship. Too often we just pick and choose which parts of the Gospel we want to live by and find reasons to dismiss the other parts we don’t want to be bothered by in their challenges. The words of St. Augustine on that practice, however, should give us pause. “You believe what you want in the Gospel and disbelieve what you want. You believe in yourself rather than in the Gospel.”  We must dedicate ourselves to doing whatever Christ has told us to do, and be obedient to His authority. Because the world needs saints. Christ came to make saints. The question is whether or not we will let Him do the work He came to do.
 John 2.5
 Courtesy of The Last Psychiatrist
 John 8.2-10
 Revelation 21.5
 I Peter 2.10
 Ephesians 4.22-24
 II Vatican Council. Lumen gentium sec. 39: “Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle, For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” (I Thessalonians 4.3; Ephesians 1.4)
 Matthew 5.48
 Saint Augustine. Against Faustus 17,3
My friends, we tend to think of Baptism as a nice little celebration with babies, (like we have today) right? Well, it’s more than that. Baptism is a time to celebrate new life in our family, in our parish, and in our church. Baptism can free us from hopelessness and give us the power to change the world. What we hear of in the Baptism of Jesus today and when we reflect on our own Baptism, we see that Baptism really is much more.
Something very powerful happened on the day Jesus lined up with the rest of the people to be baptized by John the Baptist. John baptized people as a sign of their repentance, their desire to change their lives in order to be ready for the coming of the Messiah. Jesus, personally, had no need to repent; had had no sin. Still, he joined with the people to be baptized.
As Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, he heard a voice say, “This is my beloved Son, on whom my favor rests.” With that my friends, Jesus’ preaching began. Jesus set out to teach the world about his Father. He did not go out with a message that God was just his Father. Rather, he taught us all to call on God as “Our Father.” Today’s second reading tells us that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power. The power he received made him able to heal the sick and free the captives. The power of Jesus would change the world.
In our own baptism, God says to each of us, You are my beloved son or daughter; on you my favor rests. When we think of people who have been chosen by God to do great things, we seem to always think of other people. We think of people like St. Kateri Tekakwitha, or Mother Teresa, or Pope John XXIII, or our own mother or another powerful person in our life. However, none of these great people had anything that you and I do not have. We have been given the greatest possible honor, we have been chosen by God to be God’s children, and we have been filled with the greatest of all powers: the power of the Holy Spirit. We have been anointed with the same Spirit as Jesus and have the same power. We, too, have been called to bring justice to our world of injustice, compassion to our harsh world, and peace to our world of violence.
In our baptism, we joined with Jesus Christ, who was anointed priest, prophet, and king.
Friends, Jesus joined with a sinful people to be baptized by John. Now, Jesus offers us, a sinful people, the chance to join him in Baptism. Jesus shares with us the glory of being a child of God, and his spirit, the same spirit who appeared as a dove and endorses Jesus’ mission, fills us with the power to bring justice, love and peace to our world. So as we close the Christmas Season today let there be no doubt that Jesus has invited us to know that what is asked of each of us is that we live and share the promises made at our own baptism today and every day.
The Pope has asked us to reflect on a year of faith and I think the magi are a good way to start thinking about it. After all, it must take a lot of faith to see a star appear in a sky, ascertain that there must be a new born king of the Jews, leave behind everything and decide that you will follow that star wherever it leads. But that first Christian journey is like all Christian journeys. We are star followers. Amidst of a blanket of stars in the sky, we choose one, Jesus Christ, and say that is how we want to guide our destiny. In a world that treasures self-determination, we dare to say that we are only at peace when we are led by another; that our destiny we gladly place in the hands of Jesus Christ. And as the magi must have been ridiculed, so do we face skeptical looks.
But we must act like the magi and be willing to leave everything behind, everything we know to follow the destiny God has in mind for us. For we know, that our good God has promised something wonderful for us – the right person, the right vocation, the right place. To pursue it tough, we must have the same abandon as the magi. Only in following the star of Christ will we find the peace that we have always sought and dreamed of.
The magi follow the general direction of the star and reach Jerusalem and although the star seems to beckon just beyond, they stop. After all, Jerusalem is a reasonable place to find the new born king of the Jews, isn’t it? If the star is not directly overhead, at least you can see it from there. So they decide to investigate. They ask Herod, the current king of the Jews, who is quite surprised there is a new born king of the Jews he has no idea about. They investigate as to where their destination lies.
I think every Christian journey has a stopping point like this. A place that seems reasonably close to the star. A place in between where God is leading you and your own expectations. If it is not beneath the star, we can feel its light from the angle. It makes so much sense that this has to be place. This has to be the right person, place or vocation. But don’t stop in Jerusalem.
I am always amazed that I became a priest. I had reached my Jerusalem point. I was content with everything fitting in just so. But the star was not finished with me.
I remember preparing my brother and sister in law for their wedding. I asked them what their song is. They really did not have one, so I wondered what they would do for their first dance. Jenny said she always liked a song called, “You were what I always dreamed of.” And I laughed. I said Jenny, before you met John, how did you picture your husband. She said, “Quiet, reserved, not that much into sports.” Unfortunately for Jenny, my brother is far too much like me for that to be true. That was what she expected, but it is not where the star led her.
The hardest few miles of the Christian journey are those last few miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. From the place we think we are called to where God is calling us. From the almost right relationship, the pretty good space, the service that fits your circumstances to the place where God wants you, where the star sheds it light directly upon you.
But those few miles are worth everything. The magi are overjoyed at seeing the star as it somehow stops over one place. It bathes light on Mary, Joseph and Jesus. This finally is the right place. They can feel its peace. And what do you do when you reach the place where God has called you to? You give it everything. If you have gold, you give your gold. If you have frankincense, you give it frankincense. And if you have myrrh, you say, “What is myrrh?” and you give that away too. You give it everything because this is where you belong. Bathed in the light of star of Christ, everything makes sense and you are at peace. This Epiphany may we have the courage, wisdom and grace to follow the star to its end, to the feet of Jesus where our peace always lies.
What do Eve and Epiphany have in common other than starting with ‘e’? That is the problem. Eve didn’t see her epiphany. And how often do we miss ours?
Eve is often given a bad rap, giving us original sin and all. We read in Genesis how she listened to the serpent and ate the forbidden fruit. Now we are all doomed to being sinful because of it. “Why did you lie to me?” “Eve made me do it!” How easy it is to go and blame Eve! It is easier to point to the reason for why something bad has happened rather than just sit in the uneasiness that there is evil in the world. What Eve failed to do is make the right choice in the face of evil.
Eve and Mary are often compared. Eve chose the wrong path while Mary said yes to the good in her life. Mary saw what goodness could come from her choices and followed her heart. It probably wasn’t as easy as I’m making it sound. The Bible does say she pondered a lot. But she choose the good, and Epiphany came.
Today is the Epiphany, the day we celebrate Christ being introduced to the gentiles by way of the three wise men finding him under the star. The wise men followed the light to the goodness that lay there. Like Mary, it probably wasn’t always easy for them. But they must have known the goodness that would come from their choice to follow the star. An epiphany, an illuminating discovery. Just think of what epiphany can happen in your life if you follow the good in it?
Okay, we all make bad choices. There are serpents in the world that tempt us. We can’t hide from the evil out there. But we can learn from Eve. Choose what is life-bringing and good. Your epiphany is waiting.