If we could see through God's eyes

  • January 8, 2010
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Jan. 17 (Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 96; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-12)

We are all familiar with the cliché “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Cliché or not, most clichés bear an important truth. In this case we are warned about making judgments — either positive or negative — based on external appearances and popular values.

There are three views of the self: the way others see us, the way we see ourselves and the way God sees us. The latter view is the most important, as only God can define and label us with complete fairness and compassion.

Surprisingly, the “labels” that God applies to us are not at all what we suspect. Israel was the target of contempt, scorn or even pity from other nations. After all, she had been conquered and her temple and city razed to the ground. A large portion of Israel’s elite population was captive in Babylon. So, many asked: what is praiseworthy or good about Israel? Hasn’t Israel been abandoned by their God?

Speaking through the prophet, God describes Israel in terms of beauty and delight. Nuptial imagery rather than the arid and distant language of the philosophers or theologians is used to describe the relationship between God and Israel. The Israelites are invited to see themselves as God does rather than identifying with the judgments and opinions of the surrounding nations. They are God’s chosen and God’s delight and always will be: case closed.

Our own culture measures people by glamour, beauty, style, success and cleverness and those who do not measure up are cast aside. We judge communities, religions, governments, organizations and institutions by these standards. Most of all, they generate the judgments we make of ourselves.

If only each of us could see ourselves — even for an instant — through the eyes of God rather than others. This could only be a liberating and transforming experience. But even better than that — if only we could see others through the eyes of God rather than our own fears and prejudices.

To whom do talents and gifts belong? We usually think of them as our own personal possession. But it is this sense of possessiveness that fuels the constant competition and one-upmanship that destroys our sense of community and unity. It was certainly a destructive force in the community at Corinth.

Possession is a dangerous illusion. There is only one source of the entire range of gifts that are given by the Spirit: God. And there is only one purpose for which they are given: the common good. When they are not used for this purpose they serve only the self and the ego.

In everything that we do — especially those things that we intend to do for God and others — we should ask ourselves if ego is being served more than God. Would we be just as content — or even more content — to be anonymous?

The wedding of Cana is unique. The miracles in the New Testament usually respond to great personal and physical need — disease, disability, demonic possession or even death. This miracle of the transformation of water into wine is unplanned and appears to take place merely to ease an awkward social situation. But that is not all: the miracle is not even recorded in the other three Gospels. At the same time, it is the first of Jesus’ “signs” in John’s Gospel and the manifestation of His glory sparks faith in Him among his disciples.

But this story is told in John’s inimitable style of symbolism and layers of subtle meaning. John draws on Old Testament prophetic passages that refer to the new wine of the last days — the wine that will be given at the end of days to signal the beginning of a new period in world history. This is confirmed by the chief steward’s comment about the best wine being saved until last. Jesus and the life-giving spirit that He bestows are themselves the fine wine that has been saved until the human drama is well advanced.

This symbolic speech will continue throughout the Gospel hammering out the declaration that the arrival of Jesus signifies the turning of the ages and the beginning of a new creation. Jesus Himself is the summation and fulfillment of all human hope, yearning and reaching out to the divine.