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Bible Reflections View Comments

A Sign of God’s Love
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, January 20, 2013
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My parents met at a wedding. My mom was there with someone else. She loved telling stories of all the dates she had in the early forties, especially the time she was swimming in the afternoon with one boy and then had to get home in time to change to go out with the man she would eventually marry. He turned out to be the love of her life, and she never looked back. Like the couple in today’s Gospel, she saved the best for last and was a sign of love and life for countless generations.

Weddings are a sign of committed love, of an openness to new life, of a willingness to trust in the future and to do our part to bring about that future. Catholic weddings have an additional layer of significance in that they are a sacrament that witnesses to the community a sign of God’s love for and commitment to his people.

At the heart of Catholic theology is belief in the sacramentality of life. This means that we believe that the good things of this world can be ways to encounter our God. Water, oil, bread and wine, human touch all contribute to our experience of the sacraments.

In today’s reading from John’s Gospel, Jesus is at a party with his mother and his friends. When the wine runs low and the bridegroom is faced with a social embarrassment, Jesus offers an abundance of choice wine. In John’s Gospel, the miracles Jesus performs are profound signs of his glory and his identity as the Son of God. And so the miracle at the wedding feast of Cana is far more than, say, a trip to the corner market to pick up a couple more bottles of wine for dinner. And it’s more than Jesus responding to a gentle nudge from his mother to do something about their friends’ awkward situation.

How fitting it is that the one who would in the end give his flesh and blood to be food and drink began his ministry with the sign of abundant wine. Jesus is, in fact, reflecting the prophecies of Isaiah and the other Hebrew prophets who reminded the People of God that their covenant with the Creator was like the bond of a bride and bridegroom. And the sign of that covenant was described more than once by Isaiah as an abundant banquet of rich food and choice wines.

Christmas, the feast of the Incarnation, celebrates the mystery of God taking flesh as a human baby. “The Word became flesh to make us partakers of the divine nature:... For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #460).

A Catholic spiritual life is not something that denies the body, the senses, the stuff of the earth, as inferior to a life of the mind and the purity of a disembodied soul. It’s a spirituality that looks to creation for signs of God’s very life and presence.

In these Sundays between Christmas and Lent, the Scriptures begin to show us what it means to be disciples of Jesus. Jesus meets the people of his day in the ordinary activities of their lives. His presence with us today is no different. Whether we’re gathered around the table of the Eucharist or around our family tables at home, today’s readings remind us that all is holy, all is sacred, and God’s presence can be found in the most ordinary and extraordinary expressions of human life.


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Maria Goretti: One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. 
<p>She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. </p><p>On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. </p><p>She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. </p><p>Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. </p><p>Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, may the medals we wear be constant reminders of the lives they depict. While wearing them, may we be blessed through the saints’ intercession and protected from harm. Help us to continue to spread the messages of Jesus and Mary and the saints and angels.

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