Homily of Rev. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M. Conv., University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry
Upper Church, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
May 11, 2018
My dear sisters and brothers, We live in a world of sound bites, blurbs, and tweets. World news is reduced to the endless repeating a newspaper’s one word headline. (You probably heard about newspapers in your history classes.)
The texting of hieroglyphics, commonly referred to as emojis, has replaced the use of words to communicate thoughts and feelings. The art of analysis and the intellectual crafting of positions on many important issues seem to be relegated to the classrooms of colleges and universities like ours which still value a liberal arts education. Even the most serious societal issues are rendered as hashtag movements which nobly attempt but fail to provide actual, emotional support and true solidarity that only a face to face human encounter can fulfill, sustain and transform.
So tied are we to the substitution of voiceless technology to communicate with one another that we encounter the growing phenomena of people not even answering their cell phones when they ring / but only answering text messages. And its not uncommon to see entire families texting feverishly at their common tables in restaurants / rather than engaging in actual conversation with each other while sharing a meal together.
The fading art and depth of companionable silence confuses many because of our insatiable need to text or talk or share photos of one more mundane, uneventful moment in our lives.
I wonder if we can still appreciate the poetry of a couple silently sharing a meal while occasionally lifting their gaze to one another and smiling. In that shared silent gaze is the love, and laughter, pain and sorry, arguments and reconciliations, not to mention the fidelity of a lifetime which no emoji or tweet can ever capture or express.
What we encounter in today’s gospel are lives lived in the present moment and not in the often times, trivial technological chatter of our age. We, as Jesus’ disciples / are invited guests to the feast of living meaningful lives / and we are now privileged to witness in Mary’s eyes her concern for the dilemma of the young bridegroom and bride, informed that they are running out of wine. We see Mary’s attention to detail and we marvel at her faith that what she asks of her Son, He will fulfill.
Mary’s Son commands all of us, His people, to share the Good News of mercy and love. / In our age, just like every age /the empty hearts of people need to be filled. We as His disciples, are called to pour the new wine of compassion and love until every heart is overflowing with His life. What Mary requests of her Son, she requests of us as His disciples. Through our thoughts, words and actions we are to invite others to savor the best vintage of life – a life in Christ.
Listening to the exchange in this second chapter of John’s Gospel between Jesus and Mary we also reflect on their reversal of roles as is recorded in John 19. Here at Cana, Mary makes the request of her Son to care for another - the young couple. In the Johannine account of His crucifixion we reflect on His request of Mary to care for another, His beloved disciple. Bookends to the life of Jesus in the Gospel of John, these two episodes remind us of our need to nurture our relationship with Mary – the Untier of Knots, (she saved the couple embarrassment); the New Eve whom Jesus reverenced and addressed as Woman; the Virgin made Church who intercedes for us with her Son. As disciples whom Jesus loves, we too need to take Mary into our home – the home of our hearts.
This homily is not a condemnation of the latest technology. Indeed, since God created us with reason and intellect, our technology created and used properly is a good. Its use saves lives. It can in fact be assistance to institutions and individuals. Even the Pope has a twitter account.
It is the over use of our technology which can in fact hinder our growth as human beings made in the image and likeness of God. Although, Twitter and Instagram may in fact be initial tools used to introduce the Gospel message in the public forum, it is the personal encounter with Jesus as proclaimed by you, His people, that changes hearts and minds. A tweet can never be a substitute for the lover’s gaze, the embrace of friendship, the gentle touch of a nurse at beside of the dying, the overwhelming power of the divine as a man holds his newborn child for the first time, or the reception of our Savior in Holy Communion.
There is something terribly invasive in sharing the iPhone photo of a Mother’s anguish or a child’s fear in the aftermath of a mass shooting. Nor, can I see anything redemptive in the waste of time it takes to share a You Tube video of a spoiled cat acting like a spoiled cat. However, to share with others the triumph of a Special Olympics event can in fact remind us of the value of every human life. A Go- Fund-Me account can be used to make us aware of people experiencing homelessness but it cannot substitute for sharing a meal with a new friend experiencing homelessness. Only this personal encounter with Jesus in distressing disguise has the power to change our hearts.
If you are looking for a memorable quote from your graduation weekend, I encourage you to remember Mary’s sound bite from today’s Gospel. When Mary addresses the waiters at the banquet, she is giving the best advice any human can impart. She said to them and she says to all of us, “Do whatever He tells you.” If we remember her words and live them out as best we can, then we will truly feast on the banquet of a full life. If we do not take Mary’s words to heart then we’ll spend our time watching others do so.
Obviously, “Do whatever He tells you,” is really more than a sound bite. It is command, a direction, a way forward in life.
Now, let us do what He has told us to do. Let us share in the banquet of Christ’s Body and Blood so we may leave this place to carry out His will for us. We are commanded to proclaim Him to all the nations and we are directed to surrender our lives into his hands. With your studies completed here at The Catholic University of America your way forward in life is clear. “Do whatever He tells you.” Nourished by His Word and Sacrament, invite others to share in His banquet of life. And, remember Mary’s words to us all; “Do whatever He tells you.