I’m away this week attending a special clergy conference on Alpha. It’s an opportunity to delve a bit deeper into Alpha’s philosophy and to share insights and ideas with clergy from around the country. Please keep me and all the conference participants in your prayers. Also, pray for those who will be attending our own Alpha Course which begins January 25 at St. Charles and January 26 at St. Peter’s! Several other parishes in our diocese are also starting up Alpha – let’s keep them in prayer as well.
Today’s gospel recounts Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana. There he changed water into wine – to the delight of the servants and guests! Wine is a sign of joy and festivity – and what could be more festive than a wedding? That the Lord chose this as the first of his signs is revealing. As he will later tell his disciples, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (John 16:24.) Jesus wants us to be full of joy!
What’s interesting in the story of the wedding at Cana is that the stone jars which become the vessel for this miracle were used for Jewish purification rituals. They are sitting empty until Jesus orders them to be filled. What had been a sign of sin becomes through Jesus a source of joy. The old rituals had become empty gestures, but Jesus turns the purification vessels to a new purpose, bringing new life in abundance.
Sometimes we can be like those stone jars, feeling a bit empty and hollow. Or maybe we feel like we’ve been used up, drained to the dregs by life’s problems and challenges. The good news is that Jesus wants to fill us – even as he ordered those jars filled to the brim. He wants to fill us with the wine of his Spirit – with that joy which “no one can ever take from you.” (Cf. John 16:22.) All we have to do is ask.
One of the amazing things about the Alpha Course is that on the retreat I’ve experienced people who asked and received – who were literally filled with joy in the Lord. In fact, I would say joy is one of the biggest fruits of the Alpha Course. So, if you’re feeling a bit “empty” … if you could use an extra dose of joy … consider joining us on the upcoming Alpha Course. Remember, Jesus wants us to be filled with joy!