Sunday Sermon for January 17, 2016, the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Readings: Is 62:1-5; 1Cor 12:4-11; Jn 2:1-11
In the Gospel reading today we hear about the miracle at Cana where our Lord turned the water into wine. Have you ever stopped to think about what He did, just on the practical level? He made between 120 and 180 gallons of wine. I guess the wedding feast was going to continue for quite some time. On the more gross level, He used the vessels in which people washed their hands. There is no mention of scrubbing the vessel and washing it out before they refilled it with water.

But even this little detail becomes very important. If you had been at the wedding and you knew the circumstances of where the wine had come from, it might turn your stomach. However, not knowing from where the wine came, the head waiter recognized the quality of the wine and spoke of it as a far superior wine to that which was being served earlier.

So what is so important about this? Two things. First, the fact that these were jars that were intended for purposes of ceremonial purifications. Our Lord could have had the waiters fill the carafes they were using to serve the wine. One would assume that the people had purchased the amount of wine they thought necessary for the feast, so it would also be assumed that it was getting close to the end of the ceremony. In other words, there probably was not necessity of a huge amount of wine; so, He could have done this another way. This means He wanted the purification jars used for a reason.

That the vessels were for ceremonial purification becomes important because it is not as much about bodily purity as it is about spiritual purity. This brings us to the second point which is that our Lord clearly purified what was in the jar. We all know what happens to a bowl or a pail that is used over and over for washing people’s hands. The water gets dirty and slimy; a film or scum builds up on the walls and base of the basin. If that had not been purified the wine would definitely not have tasted superior. So, it becomes obvious that our Lord not only changed the water into wine, but that He purified the purification jars.

So, why am I making such a big deal out of this? Because you, according to St. Paul, are an earthen vessel in which the mysteries of God are carried. This means that you are a purification vessel and, most likely, a vessel that needs to be purified. Now, according to the Jewish law the stone, unlike an earthen vessel, did not become unclean, even after being touched by people who had been unclean. However, the inside of the jars was certainly unclean on a natural level.

As a person who has been baptized and, I hope, have confessed all of your sins, you are not unclean in and of yourself. However, it may well be that the inside needs to be purified. Also, if you are the earthen vessel spoken of by St. Paul, then you are made, as we have seen, to carry the most precious of treasures: God Himself. This is something God has chosen, even as we see in the first reading. If God has chosen you, marries you and rejoices in you, how much purification needs to take place before you can really do what you have been chosen to do?

So, like the changing of the water into wine, the Lord wants to take was is good, but natural, in you, and change it into something excellent and supernatural. In the process He will remove whatever needs to be removed and He will purify whatever needs to be purified. In turn, He will fill you with His Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s manifold gifts, as we see in the second reading. When the Holy Spirit has the freedom to work in you and through you, truly what is best will be flowing from you in abundance.

I think is is also necessary to see that it is our Blessed Lady who requested help from her Son for this couple at the wedding feast. As God, Jesus obviously knew that the couple had run out of wine and he had the ability to address their problem without His Mother’s intervention, but it was His choice to wait until His Mother made her request. We need to be purified to become vessels worthy of the Treasure we are made to carry. Mary is the vessel which first carried this Treasure, so she is in a unique position to help us. If you will allow our Lady to work with you, she will ask her Son and He will do whatever is necessary.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit