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Weekly Message 02-01-09: Three Hierarchs

"For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is God's powerful method of bringing all who believe it to heaven. This message was preached first to the Jews alone, but now everyone is invited to come to God in this same way. This Good News tells us that God makes us ready for heaven - make us right in God's sight - when we put our faith and trust in Christ to save us. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scripture says it: `The man who finds life will find it through trusting God"' Romans 1: 16, 17

The Three Hierarchs who read and prayed this passage accepted it, believed it and lived it with total fidelity. Being disciples of the Lord made them positive thinking, upbeat and zealous; they wanted nothing else as much as to share the Good News they received and made their own.

When we also think about it, we see a house overflowing with people. The bride and groom were married in the sight of our God and now are husband and wife. Amid shouts of congratulations, the guests with noisy exuberance, greet the newlyweds and each other. Chatter and revelry spill into the streets of Cana as old friends and family members embrace, laughing drinking and dancing; This was the third day of a week-long marriage celebration.

The Roman occupation of the Holy Land may have put a damper on ordinary life, but not even imperial Rome dared interrupt a wedding reception, everyone's favorite party. Men and women moved about the crowd with trays of food and pitchers full of delightful wine. Mary was there along with her son, Jesus and his disciples. After a while, she overhead the servants whispering among themselves. Distressed by what she heard, she went straight to Jesus. "They have no more wine," she says to him, keeping her voice low so the news would not spread to other guests.

"Dear woman, why do you involve me?" He replies, "My time has not yet come."

And then as through Jesus had promised to resolve the bride and groom's embarrassing problem, Mary seemingly presumptuously speaks to the servants, almost matter-of-factly, "Do whatever He tells you."

Like soldiers awaiting their marching orders, the servants stand before Jesus. With a resigned smile, He tells them to fill six stone jars with water. But what good would it do, they must have wondered; the party needed wine, not water. Still, they did as He said. Then Jesus instructed them to draw some water out and take it to the master of the banquet.

With a puzzled look, the man dips the ladle deep into the container and lifts it to his lips. He eyes widen. He draws the ladle close to his face savoring the aroma. Then, closing his eyes, he drinks again and swishes the compelling liquid about his teeth. This is no ordinary wine, but is the best he ever tasted. "What a wonderful surprise" he says to himself

The master of the banquet goes straight to the groom. "Usually at parties like this, the choice wine is served first. Then, when the guests have had too much to drink, the host serves the cheaper wine and the guests do not know the difference," he says as he fills the groom's goblet. "But you have saved the best until now."

The groom lifts his goblet and drinks deeply. He had no idea what the master was talking about, but it does not matter. "This is excellent wine," he replies, a quizzical smile emerging on this face. "I hope we have enough."

And the other celebration shows the disciples exhausted. They had just eaten the Passover meal with Jesus but not before He washed their feet. There was an air of suspicion and uneasiness about the whole evening. Jesus had announced that one of them would betray him. "Surely not I, Lord?' each man present responded to this announcement. Their questioned response let Jesus know that they were wary of the journey and eager for him to publicly declare his being the Messiah.

But Jesus identifies Judas as the one and he already slipped away into the receptive dark night. Then the disciples followed the Lord into Gethsemane. Three times He leaves them to pray by himself and all three times they fall asleep. "Stay here and watch with me," He asks Peter, James and John. But overcome by fatigue, they always drift off to sleep.

After the third time, Jesus awakens the disciples, "Are you still sleeping and resting?" His voice is filled with strength and resolve. "Couldn't you watch at least an hour with me?" Then finally, He announces, "Enough, the hour is here. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"

Then as three years spread between these two sumptuous celebrations, between the initial wedding at isolated Cana in Galilee and this night in crowded Jerusalem, when He told his mother "My time has not yet come!" but now is ready to fulfill his appointed mission, to be delivered into the hands of sinners and to die for their sins.

Now He is ready to finish the work He began in Cana. Gods' grace is abundant and lavish, and like the wine at the wedding, there was more than enough to go around.

The Three Hierarchs recognized our Lord began his work of salvation at a sumptuous celebration, a wedding banquet. It was a party because He intended our lives to be blessed like a party; like a happy celebration if we do God's will in our lives. His coming among us is always a time to celebrate, to offer our best, to see and seek the work of our salvation as a joyous time, a party time, a time of celebration of God's grace being richly shared and spread among us. It is a time to look for a set a pattern for the days to follow. There are thousands of ways the Lord could have begun his public ministry, but He chose the venue and place of party, of feast, of banquet, of celebration. The work of salvation begins with celebration. It begins as a joyful party because the event itself is always joyful and happy and significant. At Cana in Galilee, our Lord had plenty of things to do and resolve. But what was He thinking? What about all the hungry people who needed feeding, the blind who needed to see, the deaf who needed to hear? What about restoring worship in the temple, freeing the demon-possessed, silencing gale-force winds and walking on water?

Initially He wants everyone to understand what our destiny actually is: sharing with the Blessed Trinity the eternal kingdom of heaven. Is this not a celebratory, a laudatory and festive event? His purpose in coming is to transform us to be transported into never-ending joy and fulfillment. At Cana He changes water into wine and on the night before He offers himself to the eternal Father, He lifts a cup of that wine, saying to his friends, "Drink of this, all of you: my blood of the New Covenant which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sin." On the cross He turns the costly wine into his own precious blood.

Having been gifted with the Christian mystery of faith, the Three Hierarchs embrace it and live it. They understand the treasure shared with them and wish to make others understand and embrace it as well. They look at the baptismal vocation as a life-long celebration of victory over defeat and death. They grasp the insightful and privileged admonition of the Virgin Birthgiver of God at Cana: "Do whatever He tells you."

That was the message they initially embraced, which they never abandoned and always fulfilled as the privileged expression of their lives.

No longer do we wonder why three fourth century bishops are so honored, even esteemed by the Mystical Body of Christ, the vehicle of salvation.

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