2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) – January 16, 2022
St. Paul – Lyons, KS
Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 96:1-3, 7-10; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-11
Ordinary Time: Time to Grow in Faith
We begin Ordinary Time this Sunday, but that doesn’t mean a complete “break” with what just happened during the Christmas season. We don’t just pretend that everything we just celebrated during the Advent and Christmas seasons was nice, and now we’re back to “boring time,” a bunch of stories about Jesus—the miracles he does and the teachings he gives us. Because if we leave those seasons and those mysteries behind, we leave everything behind. Everything. Jesus just becomes some nice guy with magic powers and ideas we agree or disagree with.
Remember: all during Advent, we were waiting, expecting something: something to happen, someone to arrive, to be our goel, to rescue us, to set things right—how everything would change by this person’s very presence. At Christmas we celebrated the proposal that this child is the one we have been waiting for—he will be the one to respond to our deepest needs.
Wonderful! But then we start Ordinary Time, we break out the green vestments, take down all the decorations—and there is the tendency to just sit back and wait until something exciting happens again; listen to the stories about Jesus’ miracles, listen to his teachings, and then receive the Eucharist—because we know that we’re supposed to go to Mass on Sundays.
But Ordinary Time is so much more than that! Ordinary Time is when we verify the proposals, it is when we verify the proposed claims about this Jesus. Ordinary Time is the time of growing in Faith. Except, when we hear, “It’s the time of growing in Faith,” we can easily do what? Roll our eyes and think, “Yeah, yeah, Father. Faith is important. But I have Faith. I believe in God. I come to Mass.” Mmk, yeah. I know. Thank you for being here. But that’s not what I mean by Faith. Faith isn’t just “believing God exists” or “Jesus is real” or (a classic) “believing a bunch of things with no evidence.” That’s not Faith.
Faith: To Entrust Your Life to Another
Faith—the Faith that grows during Ordinary Time—we could ask it this way: How do we know Jesus is not lying? How do we know that what we’re doing here isn’t just some hokey religion? Right? Again, we all just kind of take this for granted. We come to church, we “believe in Jesus” (whatever that means), and we go along with it. But if you listen to people—listen to people today, listen to people in the Gospels—what you, hear time and time again, is, “Jesus? Wasn’t he just a rabbi from Nazareth? Wasn’t he just a nice teacher? Sure, we should take some of his advice, but we don’t need to follow him or give-up our life for him.” We hear this in the Gospel stories themselves: Jesus goes back home to Nazareth, teaching and doing miracles, and people aren’t buying it; they say, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t this Joseph and Mary’s boy? Didn’t we watch this kid grow up?” (c.f., Lk 4:22).
So this is the question the Church turns our attention to during Ordinary Time: “Can we trust this man? Can we place our faith in this man?” We are faced with the question of Faith in Jesus. We can come to “Jesus club” all we want; say the words, sing the songs, do the “Catholic stuff.” But Faith!? Faith, entrusting our life, handing over our life to Jesus—real, authentic, uncompromising Faith in Jesus—that’s something else.
Again, the caricature of “faith” is believing certain propositions to be true, propositions that are incomprehensible to human reason, that you must believe out of blind obedience, that you have to believe and don’t have a say in the matter. “People of faith” are people who irrationally hold certain things to be true, who believe outdated and irrational doctrines, who are irrational themselves. But that’s not Faith, and we know that, and other people know that too.
Faith, in its most basic form, when we talk about Faith—Faith is trust. Faith is that very human, very rational, very normal, everyday behavior of trusting another; trusting another because you have freely interpreted all of the signs, all of the evidence which point to the conclusion that you can trust them.
Marriage: The Metaphor of Faith
The classic example of this (and Scripture uses it often as the metaphor for living a life of Faith) is marriage, the faith and trust essential to marriage—and it’s no coincidence that Jesus begins his public ministry at a wedding feast. Marriage is our guide.
I’ll ask it like this: Do you trust your wife? Do you trust your husband? Why do you fall asleep, lose consciousness, every night next to this guy that could murder you in your sleep? Exactly! I sound crazy! This person has given you reasons and signs that they can be trusted. You met, you dated each other for a while, learned about each other, spent time with one another, and based on those facts and events and companionship and signs—based on all of that evidence, you freely decided that you wanted to share your life with them, yes, but also that you could trust them.
And so on your wedding day you made vows to each other! How do you know she wasn’t lying to you? That he wasn’t lying to you? Because all of the signs pointed to the fact that they weren’t lying. It’s even one of the vows you make: “I promise to be faithful to you.” So you even said it, you promised that you would be faithful, you promised that they can trust you. And so based on all of these signs, you freely and rationally trust them, have faith in them. You are willing to lose consciousness next to them every night and not think they are going to kill you—and people don’t call you crazy or irrational for that.
People do call you crazy if you get engaged on your first date. People do call you crazy when you are all starry eyed and they keep telling you, “He’s no good for you,” but you want to marry him anyway. But when you meet them, and then you see them interact with others, when you experience that they can be trusted—then, then it’s normal to have faith in them. Even to give your whole life to them! To marry them!
The Gospels: Our Evidence for Faith
What the Gospels try to convey, over and over again, are stories, testimonies, eyewitness accounts of all of the signs and evidence for us to freely and reasonably interpret. The Gospels are a testimony about all of the signs and facts the apostles experienced, and they are meant to bring us to Faith in Jesus, bring us to trust this Jesus, and entrust our lives to him. “Why did these twelve guys follow him? Why they suffer and die for him? What did they experience that led them to have faith in this man?” That’s what the Gospels recount for us.
Here in this very famous story of the wedding feast at Cana, the most important part is that last line: “his disciples began to believe in him” (John 2:11). The disciples began to place their faith in him, to believe him, to trust him. Not, “The disciples were instantly willing to die for him, they were immediately willing to give up their lives”—none of that. But something happened, something clicked, where they said, “I’m not about to give him my whole life, but there is something here, and I have to see more.” They began to believe, to trust.
If the wedding feast at Cana was all they ever saw, they would have never followed him, never have given him their lives. The wedding feast is an important part—but more is needed.
The Mass: The Wedding Feast of the Lamb
The tough part about just coming to Mass on Sundays is that Mass presupposes you are 100% in, 100% committed. It’s literally referred to as the “Wedding Feast of the Lamb.” Just coming to Mass would be like marrying some gal the first day you meet her. If all we do in this relationship with Jesus is come one hour each Sunday, that’s like getting married on our first date and then spending one hour a week with your new wife—like, it’s not going to go well. Gonna be weird.
Our “faith” cannot be, “God exists. So on Sundays we go to Mass.” No! Faith is embarking on a journey to verify these claims about Jesus, following him, growing in trust. And ultimately, reaching a point where we willingly give our whole life to him. Again, it’s like marriage (or it’s the new year, like going to the gym): you have to do more than sign up, you have to do more than say “I do.” It means showing up daily, giving our whole life.
Faith is “not a law to which we conform”—going to Mass on Sundays because we have to. Faith is “a love to which we adhere, a presence to follow more and more with all ourselves” (Giussani). The Mass, this Eucharist, is where the person we have decided to give our life to, or the person we are beginning to give our life to, gives himself entirely to us. Here at the Mass, we find the source of our Faith and the summit of our Faith: we find one who first loves us, and first entrusts himself to us. We don’t come here because we’re part of the “Jesus club,” or because saying the right words and singing the songs and doing the “Catholic stuff” keeps us out of hell, no. We are here because we have Faith—a growing Faith—that Jesus is who he says he is. He is the one that responds to the longing, to the need we rediscovered during the Advent and Christmas season. And we can entrust our entire lives to Him. In simplicity, we can gladly give him everything.