Br. James Michael Dowd, OHC
Epiphany 2 C – Sunday, January 20, 2013
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
|The wedding at Cana|
Having been raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, it would be fair to say that I have a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. At least in my public persona, that would be true. But deep down, in the privacy and reality of my own spiritual life, I don't think of this so much as devotion to the Mother of God, but more like a relationship with Mary, the Mother of Jesus. This relationship was certainly fostered by my Catholicism, but perhaps even more importantly by the relationship that my mother and her mother, my grandmother, had with Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Both Mom and Grandma have a great relationship with Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Their approach to the faith is, or was in my grandmother's case, a practical one. For sake of ease here, I will just speak in the present tense, though Grandma went to meet Mary and Jesus many years ago. The more contemplative or ethereal aspects of our faith are not for them, but what they understand to their core is the Christian faith as an act of love. In their cases, as an act of love of a mother for her children or grandchildren. And the fact that love is mostly about action – about what you are going to do to serve God, and serve each other. Love is a hot and delicious meal on the table, night after night after night. Love is staying up all night when one kid after another comes down with chicken pox. Love is teaching your kids to love other people, to be honest, and live in peace with one another.
And I cannot help but to think of Mom and Grandma when I read this Gospel passage from John. In this reading, we find ourselves at a wedding in Cana with Mary, Jesus, and some of his newly gathered disciples. The party is going on, everyone seems to be having a great time, perhaps getting a little sloshed, and we're probably at the point in which the wedding reception has degenerated into everyone doing the Chicken Dance, when Mary notices and alerts Jesus, that the bridegroom has run out of wine.
With Jesus' response of “what concern is that to you and me?” I can't help but wonder if Mary didn't just lose it with her son. I can just imagine her thinking to herself “you've been hanging around the house for thirty years now, always with the praying, the going off to secluded places. When are you going to do something!” And I wonder if she wasn't thinking to herself about the first verse from the reading from Isaiah we just heard: “For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest...” It was time to help get these folks out of an embarrassing situation, and, more importantly, time for her son to step forward and shine forth God's glory. And so she moves on to the servants and quietly, but very firmly says, “do whatever he tells you to do.” Done.
And that seems like good advice for us, today's servants of God, to just do “whatever he tells you to do.” I know that sounds dimplier said than done, but sometimes today we make having a faith life seem so complicated, with all kinds of caveats and relativity, that we often forget the simplicity of so much of what our faith is about: love, peace, caring for each other. Do whatever he tells you to do. Go love somebody. Go make peace with somebody. Go take care of somebody who needs help.
There are moments in a lifetime of faith when I think we, as individuals, or we, as the Body of Christ, are faced with the stark reality of one of these simple choices. Moments when we must choose for love and for peace and when, in fact, it is quite simple, though not necessarily easy, to know what it is to “do whatever he tells you to do.” I believe that the Christian community in this country has arrived at one of those moments – a kind of crossroads in time in which we must make a choice to take the road toward non-violence – in which we more fully discover the kingdom of God; or to choose the road of idol worship in which we continue to worship weapons of mass destruction, whether these weapons be held by the government or by individuals. Newtown, CT is that crossroad. We are there and we have paused momentarily as we individually and collectively make the choice.
My brothers and sisters, the crossroad looms and we must make the choice for non-violence. The Firearm and Injury Center at Penn State, which has been studying firearm fatalities and injuries in this country for many years, reports that between 1980 and 2007, the average number of deaths in this country from firearms has been 32,300.1 32,300 of our sisters and brothers dead from gunfire. The number of injuries each year is more than twice that number. 32,300 dead people every year so that we can retain our precious right to collect guns. Are you kidding me? We have passed the point of absurdity and now must make a choice. A choice that is actually quite simple, though not easy. We must remove automatic weapons from our society and work very hard and long on the many other types of guns that people “collect.”
Blood is running in our streets, blood is running down our school hallways, in movie theaters, in our houses of worship, in our workplaces, in our homes. Carnage is all around us, and we do have the means to stop a considerable amount of it. And as Christians, we have an obligation to work toward the elimination of such suffering and the healing of this sickness.
For that is what violence is. A sickness. An addiction. And we Americans have become rabidly addicted to violence. On a global scale we see terrorists around every corner and so we allow a multi-front war to drag on in perpetuity, raining down bombs on innocent people all over the world. Here at home, folks convince themselves that the big bad government is coming for them and so they must arm themselves like paranoid petty dictators. This is insanity. This is a group of people living in a state of panic in a way that has nothing to do with doing “whatever he tells you to do.”
The addiction of violence has to be treated like an addiction to alcohol. In order to get to the underlying issue for the alcoholic, you must get the alcohol out of their hands. It is only then that they can begin that climb to recovery. So to with violence. Yes, violence is more complicated than guns. But in order to really be able to work our recovery, we have to get the guns out of our hands.
I stand before you today, speaking of non-violence, not because I am non-violent, but because I am working my recovery. I have never fired a gun, or used any weapon, I've never even been in a fist fight. But that doesn't mean I don't have violence within me. I hear Mary saying to me now, “when are you going to do something?” and “do whatever he tells you to do.”
The tragedy in Newtown has finally awakened not only me, but many people in this country from the kind of stupor of denial that we have lived in regarding gun violence. I urge you, I beg you, in the name of Mary and in the name of Jesus, do “whatever he tells you to do.” Pray everyday to work your own recovery from violence. Pray that our country will learn to work the program. Then, do something: Write your elected officials, demonstrate, use any kind of non-violent means to communicate to those in power that we insist on putting an end to this insanity which can only result in such evil. Insist, that it is much dimplier than people are making it out to be. Stop the carnage. Stop the bloodshed. Stop the weapons of mass destruction. When we do this we will, like Jesus, shine forth God's glory to all the world. 32,300 people are waiting for us to act this year. God help us if we don't. AMEN.
1 Firearm and Injury Center at Penn, p. 5.