From the Pastor – January 20, 2013

“There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’
And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.’
His mother said to the servers, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’” (Jn. 2:1-5)

The Gospel this Sunday is the very first Gospel that I preached about as a newly ordained deacon in October of 1998. The Mass took place in a very small chapel called the Clementine Chapel, which is located under the main altar of the Basilica of St. Peter at the Vatican. It’s the closest altar to the Tomb of St. Peter the Apostle. I had decided that I wanted the Mass to be a Votive Mass for the Blessed Virgin Mary, since I felt that Mary had carried me through all of my priestly discernment. Although I was only going to be preaching to a small group at that Mass, I really wanted to be super-prepared for my first “official” homily. I spent days and days praying about the Wedding Feast at Cana. I examined the idea of the “wedding banquet” in the history of the Church. I gained insights into the idea that Christ turned water into wine, and then turned wine into His blood at the Last Supper. I meditated on the “old wine” as the blood of the passover lamb of the Old Covenant and the “new wine” as the blood of the Lamb of God of the New Covenant. I wanted to be witty, erudite and to the point.

And then I remembered something that my Greek teacher had told me: “You should never preach on the Gospel unless you have read it in the original Greek.” Okay, I know you think that sounds crazy, because I thought it sounded crazy at the time. And my Greek is not that good, although I can usually sound out the words and read them in concert with the translation. So, on the evening after my Ordination to the Diaconate, as I was praying about my homily one last time, I pulled out the Greek version.

Now, understand that I had been a deacon only about 7 hours. And as I struggled to read John 2:1-11 in Greek I got to the last line in the passage above. Mary told “the servers,” “do whatever He tells you.” And the Greek stopped me cold. The word used for “servers” was diakonoiV . Now, seriously, it’s not too hard to see the actual transliteration of that word. The “v” looking thing is an “n” in Greek. The word is “diakonois” or “deacons” in Greek. Mary told “the deacons” to do “whatever He tells you.” The translators translate the word as “servers” in the Gospel of John because the Order of Deacons was not established by the Apostles until after Pentecost, as recounted in the Acts of the Apostles. But for me, the moment was a “wow” moment as a newly ordained deacon. Mary told the deacons to do whatever He tells you. I still try to follow that advice from my Blessed Mother Mary on a daily basis.

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty