2nd Sunday after Epiphany
Divine Providence giving us each year two opportunities to reflect upon the Gospel of the Wedding Feast of Cana, and having dwelt somewhat on the event itself and Our Lady’s role in it on our patronal feast last week, today, I would like to briefly dwell on two points: the miracle and the marriage.
First of all, the miracle. The final sentence of today’s Gospel tells us: This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him (Jn 2:11). By performing the miracle, Christ showed His glory, that is to say, His power, and this manifestation of power is what moves the disciples to put their faith in Him.
For the followers of Jesus Christ, miracles have always been proof of His divinity and proof of the divinity of the Church. How could it be otherwise when the Lord Himself said to the pharisees: The works which the Father hath given me to perform give testimony of me, that the Father hath sent me (Jn 10:36). And just before ascending into Heaven, He foretells that the disciples will perform man signs and wonders to bear witness to the truth of their preaching (cf. Mk 16:17-18). So clearly, the signs point to the divinity of His mission and are a convincing proof of it.
We might wonder why this is necessary when faith is a gift of God. In the dogmatic constitution Dei Filius, the First Vatican Council taught this about the virtue of faith: “In order that the obedience of our faith might be in harmony with reason, God willed that to the interior help of the Holy Spirit there should be joined exterior proofs of His revelation; to wit, divine facts, and especially miracles and prophecies, which, as they manifestly display the omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, are most certain proofs of His divine revelation, adapted to the intelligence of man”.
This is the reason for which, in addition to the miracles of Our Lord in the Gospels, He wanted miracles to remain in His Church to the end of time. This is why every now and then He sends a thaumaturge, a great saint who performs signs and wonders. This is why whenever a saint is canonised, there are at least two certified miracles. This is why there is a Lourdes, a Shroud of Turin, a tilma of Juan Diego: signs that nature cannot explain and which point to a higher power.
In a world that, due to its technological prowess thinks it has no need of miracles, it is important that followers of Christ be able to articulate their conviction that whatever might be the accomplishments of technology, there remains an infinite distance between an extraordinary invention and a miracle. Inventions follow the laws of nature, the knowledge of which grows over time. Miracles surpass nature. To return to today’s miracle, it is within the power of nature to make wine. This is a process that requires years and a lot of human industry. It is not within the power of nature to transform water into wine instantaneously. This denotes a power beyond nature, one that can only be in the Creator of nature. Of course, one can refuse to believe in miracles. The act of faith remains free, but a rational person must give due consideration to feats that point to a higher power, for they are marks that the one who performs them are accredited by God.
Coming now to the question of marriage. This is obviously not the place to give a complete catechesis on this sacrament, but taking to heart the final recommendation that Pope Benedict XVI gave us in his spiritual testament, when he said: “Do not be confused!”, I would like to say a few words about contraception. This is necessary because, even though there is not an ounce of confusion in the teaching of the Church, there are a number of voices in the Church today creating confusion on this issue. Some of them from their lofty thrones sow doubts and discord among the faithful around the world. For my part, from my lowly little pulpit and for the benefit of the handful of souls who have the patience to listen to me, I would like to just recap a few fundamental points.
The primary purpose of marriage as a natural institution going back to the beginning of time and as a sacrament instituted by Christ is the procreation and education of children. It is for this reason that, from the very start, and without a single discordant voice for 2,000 years up until recently, the Church has consistently taught that the use of contraception is gravely immoral and can never be accepted under any circumstances. Faced with the breakdown of morals in the last century, the Church repeated this teaching with great solemnity on several occasions, the most noteworthy being the encyclicals Casti Connubii of Pope Pius XI in 1930 and Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI in 1968. Developing this teaching, Pope John Paul II gave us some of the strongest statements on record about it. One will suffice. In October 1983, he said that when a couple uses contraception, “they claim a power which belongs solely to God: the power to decide in a final analysis the coming into existence of a human person. They assume the qualification of not being cooperators in God’s creative power, but the ultimate depositaries of the source of human life. In this perspective, contraception is to be judged objectively so profoundly unlawful, as never to be, for any reason, justified. To think or to say the contrary is equal to maintaining that in human life, situations may arise in which it is lawful not to recognise God as God”. There you have it. To contracept is to play God. And to play God is of necessity to play against God, because we are not God.
So, my dear Friends, do not let yourselves be confused. The teaching of the Church is so clear and so lucid that no one should ever doubt. And if, God forbid, someone sitting on a lofty throne were to create more confusion by means of more equivocal statements, stand firm, it will pass. And those who hold tight to the received teaching and who refuse to play God, will one day be vindicated.
And if someone with a serpent-like voice whispers in your ear that you must make up your own mind and follow your own conscience, respond with this other quotation of the same John Paul II: “It is not enough to say that we must always follow our conscience. Each one of us must form a right conscience, one that seeks to know the truth as revealed to us by God, according to his wise and loving plan.”
May Our Blessed Lady and all the saints assist us as we fight the good fight. May we march forward, fortified by the strong wine of the love of God that she infuses into our hearts, making us oblivious of any blows we might receive.