Paulist seminarian Tom Gibbons reflects on his formation experience and his life as a seminarian right now. Along the way, some questions will be will be answered, and a lot more will come up.
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Party On, Jesus
The following is the homily I gave for the Masses I celebrated this past weekend in Horeshoe Bay and Austin, Texas… hence the Longhorn bias included therein.
Whenever I go on an extended trip, I have the habit of making a CD mix in order to capture the “je ne sais quoi” of the place to where I’m going. So in preparation of the big Austin trip, three super-cool mixes were made based heavily on the music I was listening to when I lived out there three years ago. On one of the songs, Lone Star local Bob Schneider was singing about all of these people he wanted to be in life.
Want to be like Captain Kirk – get up each morning and love to go to work…
Want to be like Cassius Clay – change my name and go all the way…
He continued down the list. But then something interesting happened by the time he got to Jesus.
Want to be like Jesus Christ. Keep the party moving giving good advice.
At first, I thought that Mr. Schneider’s theology might be a little limited. But then, when reading the gospel about the Wedding at Cana, I began to see that maybe he had a point.
Usually when discussing the Wedding at Cana, the church likes to focus on marriage as an analogy of God’s relationship to His people. Indeed, in today’s Isaiah reading we heard explicitly that language used to describe Yahweh’s relationship to Israel. We Christians often use use the analogy of Christ’s relationship to his Church as a bridegroom and his bride. While many of us may have had problematic experiences with marriage in our lives, when it is understood in the best sense of the idea, marriage does capture the strength of the commitment that God has with each one of us both as individuals and as a community. It captures the aspect of comfort that our best relationships give us—no matter with whom we have those relationships—when life gets rough and the prognosis does not look good. Marriage also captures the aspect of challenge in any good relationship, the relationship we have with those people who make sure that we are living to our highest ideals and those people who regularly remind us to “check ourselves before we mess ourselves.” Reflecting on our relationship with God as the best marriage partner we could have certainly adds new dimensions to all of our spiritual journeys.
But in the midst of all of that theological reflection, it can also be easy to overlook something even more basic in the Wedding of Cana story. It can be easy to overlook that of all of the places that Jesus chose to perform his first sign, he chose to perform it at a party. Even though the pharisees and scribes of his day used to complain about how much Jesus and his companions used to eat and drink, we don’t usually associate Jesus with parties in the true sense of the word.
There is a strong tendency to keep Jesus safely enclosed in Sunday morning and far, far away from Friday night. There is a strong tendency—out of a very legitimate sense of reverence—to routinely err on the solemn when relating to Jesus… often to the detriment of celebration.
But there is a lot more to Jesus than Sunday morning. Jesus is every bit of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and yes, even Friday Night. Like a marriage, Jesus is part of sickness and of health. Jesus is part of the bad and struggling times every much as he is of our good and celebratory times. That is why we do not simply go to Mass; it is why we celebrate Mass.
If Jesus were present in bodily form today, I suspect that one of the “Good Stops” he would frequent—as a friend of ours used to say—would be a Texas tailgate party. I can imagine a huge crowd gathered before the big game… barbecue being served… and kegs of Milwaukee’s Best all around.
(On a side note, I don’t know WHY the city of Milwaukee thinks that beer is the best that they have to offer, but that’s a different homily.)
And then tragedy strikes!!! The beer runs out. So people turn to this guy standing in the corner, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and munching on his brisket, and plead to him for help. So Jesus replies, “Bring me the coolers of Evian!” So they do, and when they open the coolers they are filled with bottles of Shiner-Bock. Firehouse #4. Samuel Adams. And there are also organic sodas and exotic fruit juices, because everyone is invited to this celebration but not everyone drinks.
So like the Wedding at Cana, Jesus wants to keep the parties of our lives moving… giving some good advice along the way. Like the wine at Cana, Jesus wants to change our lives into something sweeter, something fuller, and something more than what it is now. Jesus wants to be a part of our Friday nights as well as our Sunday mornings. All we have to do is invite him in.
So in the words of our other friends Wayne and Garth, “Party On.”