Homily for Pro-Life Vigil Mass

Changing water into wine (Pro-life) – Homily Preached by Fr. John Harris, OP on the occasion of Pro-life vigil Mass, University Church, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin, January 19th, 2013.

If I had five euro for every time someone joked with me at a party or social event, “Father, can you change water into wine”. I would be a rich man.  But maybe it is a good question to try and answer. Maybe it is what we Christians should be trying to do all the time. What does it mean to change water into wine? What did it mean for Jesus? What difference did Jesus make by being at the wedding? A situation of disaster (they have no wine) was changed into a cause for rejoicing (the best wine was kept ‘til last). Jesus by being present changed not just the water but the whole story of the wedding feast.  Jesus always brings something new to all situations.

At Cana in Galilee Jesus took water which was used for the washing of purification and changed it into the wine of celebration. We can understand this mystery in a number of ways. We can see how Jesus is changing the religion of the Old Testament into the New Testament. He is taking away sins and calling people into new life of communion with him. He is changing religion from being concerned only with sin and making religion joyful. He is saying that true religion is not just about things we can’t do but about doing the good we can do. When we celebrate the sacrament of confession, not only are our sins washed away but we receive the renewed life of grace. We leave the sacrament not just free of our sins but renewed to begin again with the grace necessary to live the Christian life.

In St. John’s Gospel Jesus says: I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly (Jn 10:10). This is the true story of Cana in Galilee; the changing of water into wine was but a symbol of what he really wants to do in our lives.  It is his very presence that brings this new life, guiding us into a new life of communion with God and communion with each other. For too long I think we have not been taking our religion seriously. We are not truly allowing the Lord to challenge us and renew us.  When the wise men visited the child at Bethlehem they went home a different route. When we truly meet Jesus things change and we are changed. We can’t keep going as before. When Jesus came to wedding feast things changed. But we are told that this was but the first signs given by Jesus. We are now his continuing signs in the world.  Each one of us needs to ask ourselves; how does he change my life? What does his presence mean for me? What role does my faith play in my life? Does it change things, give a deeper meaning, give answers where there seems to be none.  Of course the answer is yes. Just as Jesus turned water into wine our faith adds a new vitality and joy to our lives. We should use our faith more in our lives. Sometimes people ask me for arguments to persuade their children or grandchildren to go to Mass. My answer is always that they themselves are the answers. Tell them why you go, witness to your faith. Draw them through your love don’t force them.

At Mass now the priest invites us to say the “Our Father” by saying “formed by divine teaching”. Our Christian beliefs should play a role in our lives. Our minds, attitudes and decisions should be coloured by what we believe. It is unjust to expect us to leave our faith outside of who we are, how we think and he way we act. For instances we believe that Jesus became man in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the moment Mary said “Yes”. He did not become one of us three weeks later, or four months later or just when he was born in Bethlehem. He began to be one if us in his mother’s womb, so therefore our care for the life of the unborn is based radically on our faith. Human life begins in the womb at the moment of conception. Our faith gives us the courage to affirm this truth of humanity.

When we stand by a coffin of one we love and all seems lost, our faith in the Risen Jesus tells us that this is not the end. When we feel burdened down by sin, the presence of the mercy of Jesus takes the burden and allows us to walk freely. To know that one is loved by a God who is love gives life a whole new reason for living.

Pope Benedict has often spoken of the fact that in our modern world so many people live in spiritual deserts and they are crying out in various ways for help. We may find some of these ways disturbing and they may be seeking help in the wrong places. We who have found the source of true happiness must help all our brothers and sisters to find Jesus, the source of life and joy. The Pope when he opened the Year of Faith said: “in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive. Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, evangelizing means witnessing to the new life, transformed by God…”

Our presence in Dublin today is also about changing water into wine; we are witnessing to the culture of life in the face of the threats from the culture of death. The politicians are saying they must legislate for death because of a flawed decision of the Supreme Court, we are saying no you don’t. We the Irish people are saying that death is not the only option open for a mother in trouble, there is hope, and there is life. We will support you and love you.

You and I must begin to change water into wine. We must bring Jesus into our lives and the lives of those around us. We must be people of love and mercy, people guided by their faith and filled with the joy of a life united with Christ in God. Our secular world drowning in the waters of its own hopelessness needs the new wine of God’s merciful presence. We should not be ashamed of our faith, we should not be afraid to be Catholics, and as such to be people who make up this society. We don’t have to leave our faith outside the doors of our politics and our various social networking.

As Mons Eamon Martin, the newly appointed coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh so wisely said yesterday:

There is a need for a mature relationship between church and society, in both parts of this island, and people of faith have a vital role to play. It would hugely impoverish our faith if we were expected to ‘leave it at home’ or ‘keep it for Sundays’, excluding it from our conversations and actions in daily life. I believe it would equally impoverish society if the fundamental convictions of faith were unable to be heard in public debate; it would diminish our understanding of the human person and dilute the concept of the common good.

So let us today accept our mission of turning the water of despair into the wine of new life and hope. Cana was the first signs of Jesus let this vigil today be the first sign of new life in our Catholic Church in Ireland.

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