Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 17th, 2016


World Day of Migrants and Refugees

As we celebrate the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, God’s Word calls us to reflect on the needs of migrants and refugees and our response to their need. As we look at the Word, we find  references to gifts and to being blessed, renewed and encouraged.

Israel is encouraged through the words of Isaiah to trust in God’s love for them, a love that will renew and bless them. Their shame and humiliation will be taken away and God will embrace them in love and give them a new name. Just as Jesus was proclaimed as God’s Son, the Beloved, in the Gospel last week, so Israel is proclaimed as God’s Delight. No longer is there any separation or alienation, but God and Israel are united once again in a loving, covenant relationship.

John, in the Cana story focuses on the blessing that Jesus gives the young couple, their families and all those gathered. In the gift of the water turned to wine, Jesus renews the spirit of those gathered and enables the couple and their families the means to celebrate the gift of the marriage relationship and of community.

St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians has two centres of focus: the diversity of gifts found in the community, and God whose love and creativity are manifested through those gifts, just as the wine at Cana is a symbol of that love and creativity.

The Corinithian community was a very diverse community, made up of members from all classes of society. In the  world of that community, many people depended on the generosity of benefactors to provide for many of their needs. In that context, gifts could have many different meanings: they could be a reward or a sign of favour; they could be a symbol of love or friendship; they could be a bribe or an incentive to co-operate in some project or they could be an expression of gratitude, sorrow or joy.

In this context, gifts could be very divisive in a community, setting up different classes of people and causing anger, hurt and isolation. These same gifts could also bring out very different reactions, depending on whether one received a gift or not.

Paul’s other focus flows from the insight that all gifts come from God and thus everyone is equally gifted, although the gifts vary. The question now is not who is more or less gifted but what God intends for us to do with what we have received. Paul is quite clear that all the gifts are given by God and God activates all of them through the Holy Spirit. The gifts given are for one purpose – for the common good. They are to be used in service of the whole community, for the building up of the community. Both in Corinthians and in the story of Cana the emphasis is on the service we render with the gifts we have received freely. With this perspective, every gift has value as does every person. No one person’s service is of less value than another person’s; we all have different service to offer to the community and all are important.

The question for each of is: what gifts have I been given. St. Paul gives us a list of particular gifts but we need to remember that this list is not a complete list. While Paul focuses on wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, etc. we need to recognize that there are many other gifts God gives us as well, as Paul lists in other letters. In the Gospels, Jesus calls us to use the gifts of compassion and generosity. It is sometimes not easy to recognize or categorize the gifts we’ve been given. Sometimes others see gifts in us that we do not see in ourselves. We are called to be open to the discernment of the community in recognizing our gifts and well as in how we are called to use those gifts in service.

In reflecting on our gifts, we are also called to reflect on the needs of the many people throughout the world who are refugees or migrants and the underlying conditions that have led to their particular situation. Some are fleeing war and persecution, others are migrating because of economic or environmental conditions and still others are seeking a new home because of injustice, racism or discrimination. Whatever the cause, the plight of migrants and refugees calls out to us. How am I called to serve? What gifts have I to offer someone who is seeking a new home and a new life in our community or country? How can I serve in such a way that enables newcomers to recover a sense of peace and dignity? What gifts of time, talent or treasure am I able to share with others? How can we as a community respond? What can we do to help shape public policy and help make our country a more open and welcoming society?

The Word today reminds us that we are generously gifted and called to service. How can we serve?