Homilies and Poems

I am a Catholic Deacon and a Professor of English at Oregon State University. I've created this BLOG as a way of sharing my Sunday homilies, for anyone who would like copies, as well as some of my poetry. I'm also very glad to continue the conversation, over email or in person. Just click on "profile" and then onto my email address. Peace be with you and the Lord be with you. Also visit me at my website.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

The Spiritual Success of the Universe



January 20, 2013
2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Isaiah, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, John 2:1-11

     Every day water and matter and light come together and become food.
     Every day we take that food into our bodies and it becomes energy.  It becomes thought and language and action.
     Every day we turn fabric into clothes and trees into buildings and sounds into songs.
     Every day morning becomes afternoon and afternoon becomes evening.
     And this is all miracle.  This is all the work of God.    

     Christ is always turning water into wine and matter into energy and energy into matter and has been since the Big Bang, since the creation of the world, right down to this very moment.  We are the universe come to consciousness of itself, through Him and with Him, and every thought we have and every action we take are the newest things to come into being since the beginning of time.
     It takes an entire universe to make an apple pie, Carl Sagan says.  Or as a blurb I saw put it, on the cover of Michael Dowd’s Thank God for Evolution:  “it took the universe 13.7 billion years to produce this amazing book.” 
     And it did, of course, because it takes 13.7 billion years to produce every book and every object and everything we ever do or feel, and in every atom of it, every particle, the Spirit is at work, continuing to create the world.  “The Spirit produces all of these,” Paul says in the first letter to the Corinthians, “distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.”
     “A thought,” says Teilhard de Chardin, “a material improvement, a harmony, a unique nuance of human love, the enchanting complexity of a smile or a glance, all these new beauties that appear for the first time, in me or around me, on the human face of the earth—the spiritual success of the universe is bound up with the release of every possible energy in it.”

     I know we all feel small and insignificant.  I know we all feel invisible. 
     But what could be more ordinary than a wedding feast?  What could be more ordinary than sitting together and drinking wine?  Most of the people at that wedding in Cana don’t know that a miracle has occurred at all. 
     But it has.  In some profound and invisible way Jesus has transformed their lives, and this is always going on, this is always happening, and it happens through us, or can.    
    The other day I saw a man go up to another man and pay him a compliment, he put his hand on the man’s shoulder and spoke a kind word to him, and I saw the man’s face light up, transform, and I felt the air in that room change, I felt some increase occur inside of all of us. 
     Just a look.  A gesture.
    “Any increase that I can bring upon myself or upon things,” says Chardin, “is translated into some increase in my power to love and some progress in God’s blessed hold on the universe.  With every creative thought or action, a little more health is being spread in the human mass, and in consequence, a little more liberty to act, to think, and to love.”

     This can work the other way, too, of course.  We can turn wine into water, through our anger or cruelty or selfishness or neglect.  But whenever we pray, whenever we think in reasoned ways, whenever we make something real and good, whenever we touch someone or help someone, it’s as if we contribute to some vast and invisible ecology, some vast and invisible organism, in ways we can never really understand, and slowly, without our even knowing it, a land that was “desolate,” in the words of Isaiah, a land that was “forsaken,” becomes a “delight,” becomes espoused, beloved.
     “We serve to complete the work of creation,” Chardin says, “even by the humblest work of our hands.”
    
     So if like me you sometimes feel that no one knows or cares what you’re doing, think of this:  that God knows and God cares--and your family and your friends--and what could be a better or more important audience than that?            
     Or if like me you fear growing older, if like me you fear death, if like me you fear things changing in your life, think of age and of change as water becoming wine.  As transformation. 

     And there’s another consequence of thinking in these ways, another effect, because to believe this is to believe, too, that Christ is present not just in us but in other people.  It’s to believe that other people are loved by God, just as we are.  Other people are filled with the Spirit, in their own particular ways.
     We are no less than they are, but also no greater.
     How would all our lives change if we kept this in mind—even when someone hurts us or disappoints us or makes us angry?  How would the world be transformed if we all acted on the assumption that everyone we see is beloved—however blocked or distorted their light might be?
    We each have our own small part to play.  That’s all.
     But that’s everything.
    
     “Next to the Blessed Sacrament,” says C.S. Lewis, “your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses, for in him also Christ, the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”

     Of course the bread and the wine become the body and blood.  On some deep level everything does and always has done, and so do we.  In the Eucharist we become the Eucharist, or can, we become what we receive, every one of us here, you no less than me, and if we believe this and if we act on this, everything changes, in us and around us. 
     This is of infinite importance.  On this transformation within us—on this conversion--everything in the universe depends.