“The realism of the faith is particularly good for us in the upheavals of life. The Christian faith clearly affirms that God has really manifested Himself. In Jesus Christ, He has truly become flesh.” Fr. Marco Testa is a priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto. Here is his homily for the Second Sunday Per Annum (C)
“Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him” (Jn. 2:11).
Last Sunday, we celebrated the Feast of our Lord’s Baptism and so marked the beginning of His public life. Having celebrated the Feast of Christmas and the Epiphany, we now begin anew our commemoration of the mysteries of our Lord’s earthly life; preparing for the annual celebration of the Paschal Mystery of our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. As you may know, the Gospel of St. John does not follow the same chronology of the other Gospels. While in these the beginning of our Lord’s public life is marked by His Baptism, in the Gospel of St. John the miracle worked at the wedding feast at Cana of Galilee is the first revelation of our Lord’s glory. “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him” (Jn. 2:11).
In all of the Gospels the Lord reveals Himself; that is, He makes Himself known and in the grace that is ours in the celebration of the sacred liturgy, this revelation continues and it sheds light on us as we are right now. The truth of God’s revelation enlightens the particular circumstances of our present life. For this reason, as we begin anew to commemorate the events of our Lord’s public life, it is important for us to make a conscious effort to remember that the faith is not a myth. It is real history, the traces of which we can visit and touch with our hands. The realism of the faith is particularly good for us in the upheavals of life. The Christian faith clearly affirms that God has really manifested Himself. In Jesus Christ, He has truly become flesh. There is an ancient antiphon from the Divine Office that brings together the three events in our Lord’s earthly life that have marked our Sunday celebrations thus far this year. “Three mysteries mark this holy day: today the star leads the Magi to the Infant Christ, today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast; today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation” (Ant. Ad Magn., Vespers II, Epiphany). In bringing all three events together this ancient text expresses a principle that is always at work whenever we celebrate the Sacred Liturgy: the God of Revelation is a God of salvation and He continues to make Himself known to the human person who by nature is capable of knowing God and of accepting the gift that He makes of Himself. Christian thought speaks of the human person as being “capax Dei”; that is, of having a natural capacity for God.“Eo mens est imago Dei, quo capax Dei est et particeps esse potest”. The mind is the image of God, in that it is capable of Him and can be partaker of Him. (St. Augustine, De Trinitate XIV: 11).
This openness and search for God is the fundamental motive that gave birth to Western culture which in our times, is increasingly stridently undermined by forces encountered both within and outside our cultural framework. The greatest internal threat to this culture is what may be defined as secularism. By this is meant not a legitimate secularism that rightly differentiates between Church and state but a philosophical vision that excludes God altogether from human life and from all reality. It is not uncommon to hear of secular thought, secular morality, secular science, and secular politics. This is in essence, an unreligious vision of life, thought and morality: in other words, a vision in which there is no room for God, for a Mystery that transcends pure reason and for a moral law of absolute value that is in effect all the time and in every situation. Increasingly, those who espouse this vision of the human person as completely deracinated from the very idea of God, exercise what our Holy Father Pope Benedict has described as a dictatorship of relativism. Secularism offers a very narrow and limited view of the human person. In the face of tragedies and events that defy human explanations, laws are the only redoubt of secularism. These rarely if ever suffice. A vision inspired by faith however presents us with a view that is in fact limitless precisely because it has its origin in the eternal God. Some have observed that the papacy of Pope Benedict is marked by a deliberate campaign against secularism, especially in Europe and North America. We do well then, to heed what our Holy Father teaches both by word and example, as we ourselves struggle with relativism and secularism in the greater culture.
This Year of Faith is unique grace for us living at this specific time in human history. In Porta Fidei the Holy Father explains: “Through his love, Jesus Christ attracts to himself the people of every generation: in every age he convokes the Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new. Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith…Believers, so Saint Augustine tells us, ‘strengthen themselves by believing’….Only through believing, then, does faith grow and become stronger; there is no other possibility for possessing certitude with regard to one’s life apart from self-abandonment, in a continuous crescendo, into the hands of a love that seems to grow constantly because it has its origin in God”(Porta Fidei, #7).
It is within the ability of everyone here, young and old to renew our own faith by believing and collectively to commit to the new evangelization. Programs will not defeat secularism. We must engender, foster and restore a sense of the sacred; and that begins here, where we encounter the living God in the sacred liturgy. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi in an ancient adage of the Church: the norm of prayer is the norm of belief, the norm of life. Our spiritual lives reflect our physical lives; both must be nurtured, fostered and cherished. And so we seek anew this year to walk along the path of devout discipleship with longing hearts and minds; for through the grace of our sacramental lives and in the events of our lives our Lord will reveal His glory to us and in its light, in time we will achieve an authenticity of life that perhaps to our surprise, will inspire both self and other. The prescription for the perfection that is ours to attain is contained in today’s Gospel reading: “His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’.” (Jn. 2:5). Through the ages the Church has spoken these words to the children of every new generation, ours included.
If we live long enough and attempt even if only slightly, to arrive at some level of self-knowledge, we come to the realization that self-sufficiency is illusory at best and potentially very dangerous at worst. The act of faith that we make, confessing that Jesus is Lord, expands our horizons beyond the limits imposed by the world and disposes us to receive the gift of life which enables us to participate in God’s own life. “But here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed much.” So said Blessed John Henry Newman, who, with these words, enunciates a principle that captures the essence of the Christian life, long or short. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Cf. Col. 3:3). If we but heed Our Lady’s words and do whatever He tells us, not only will we see His glory. We shall also partake of it even now, here; and we too shall be changed and become perfect, undaunted by our weaknesses and emboldened by our confidence, by our self-abandonment “into the hands of a love that seems to grow constantly because it has its origin in God” (Porta Fidei, #7). May the prayers of our Lady, Mother of the Church and those of St. Joseph, obtain for us the grace of confidence in God’s mercy and of final perseverance in the Faith.