My guess is that most people, hearing that stuff about Zion and Jerusalem in our 1st Reading today, (Isaiah 62:1-5) wonder what on earth all this has got to do with us. The answer is very simple. Isaiah was using both words, not to describe a city – geographical location – but a people, in fact the people of God. For Christians therefore, the full realisation of who are the People of God is us of course – the Church of God. We know what the full realisation of this will be from the vision of the new Jerusalem that we hear of in the last book of the Bible (Rev 21:2) “And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
If you are awake you may have heard that word “bride” already today, and rapidly made the link with today’s Gospel. (John 2:1-11) For in it, the glory and power of God in Jesus is revealed where? Yes, at a wedding in Cana of Galilee where ordinary water is changed into wine. So, we, you and me, the very ordinary people of the Church, are the bride at the wedding, we are the glorious new wine, we are the holy People of God. Yes, we know only too well that we have not made it yet to the fullness of what this means; but we are assured by these readings that we are on the way; that in the power of God we can be transformed from ordinary people into glory. That is our hope, not just for us individually, as and when we die, but together as a holy people struggling to live out God’s glory in our ordinary daily lives.
So this great reading from Isaiah is addressed to us. Listen again to what he says of us:-
“The nations then will see your integrity, all the kings your glory and you will be called by a new name, one which the mouth of the Lord will confer. You are to be a crown of splendour in the hand of the Lord, a princely diadem in the hand of your God.”
It’s a tall order isn’t it? Especially as we look not just at ourselves, but at the Church throughout the world and throughout the ages, failing again and again to live up to our calling.
So what should we do? Well as individuals, we always need to admit our failings, and turn to God. For the more we are open, truly open, to God the Holy Spirit working within us, the more likely we are to let a bit more of his glory through. Note that! It is not about us becoming better people, although that is to be hoped for, but much more important, about letting God be seen through us. For remember, as St Paul implies, God’s power can and does work through us even in our weakness. (See 2 Cor 12:9) But we also need to recognise our part in making the Church more and more the glorious new wine, the new Jerusalem that God wants us to be. We do this first of all simply by being at Mass, especially on a Sunday, but on weekdays too. But we also do it by being an active member of the Church rather than a spectator.
In one sense we are lucky at Eynsham that we have a relatively small number of people at Mass, and so it is much easier for us to get to know one another. I have been really thrilled in the last few weeks to see a number of people here step forward to play a new part in the life of our community. Some have started dropping in on Monday mornings to share together the readings for the Sunday ahead and in doing so help me with my Homilies. We have a new person looking after the Rotas so as many people as possible are involved in the Mass each week. Someone else has just volunteered to lead us in our links with CAFOD caring for the poor and starving of the world and so on.
For Catholics who go to churches where there may be several hundred, if not over a thousand, at Sunday Mass the challenge to be part of the Church and not just a spectator is much greater. Such people need to look for groups within the larger church where they might get involved and get a sense of belonging that way, because just arriving at Mass on a Sunday where no-one notices you and you do not even say “Good morning” to other people is not good for anyone’s growth as a Christian. The least you can do is to say a Good Morning to those sitting next to you before you leave, and even better to get into a longer conversation.
Notice how our 2nd Reading (1 Cor 12:4-11) talks of the various gifts of the Holy Spirit that we might have. But if we read on beyond where our reading stops we would see that the Holy Spirit works in us for the good of the Church and that whatever way God works in us it must be based on love. You may have the gift of prophecy, the ability to share your faith with others; but we must always do this and other things, however ordinary they may seem, as members of the Church. I am always saddened when I hear of a Catholic doing something really good in the world and nobody knows they are a Catholic. So, good for those footballers and other athletes who make the sign of the cross publicly before a game or a race. We should be as brave as them and do this ourselves more often, not for ourselves, but for the Church. For this is the way the glory of God in and through his Church is proclaimed.