Desolation Turns to Delight

In the wake of the Feasts of the Incarnation – the Birth, Epiphany, Baptism of our Lord – this Sunday’s readings speaks to the new reality made possible in Christ. As St Paul puts it in his second letter to the Corinthians (5:17):

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ – there is a new creation:

The old things have passed away; behold, the new has come.”

This is not the idolatry of novelty and innovation, the planned obsolescence of consumer society, or a disdain for the traditions and inheritance of generations gone before us. No, this is in the vein of Christ saying, I have come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it!

The prophet Isaiah proclaims the vindication and restoration of God’s people – by God’s hand – and describes the renaming, the new names given as God delights in this new creation:

You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD,
a royal diadem held by your God.
No more shall people call you “Forsaken, “
or your land “Desolate, “
but you shall be called “My Delight, “
and your land “Espoused.”
For the LORD delights in you
and makes your land his spouse.
As a young man marries a virgin,
your Builder shall marry you;
and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride
so shall your God rejoice in you.

As we God’s work in our own lives, in our life as a Church, in our communities as we consider the work of life, justice, and peace, where do we consider ourselves ‘forsaken’ or ‘desolate’? Who are the ‘ forsaken’ and ‘desolate’ around us? Now consider the mutual delight of a newlywed couple… That is how the prophet describes God’s desire for and delight in us and the forsaken and desolate in our midst!

In the first letter to the Corinthians, we are reminded of the ground made fertile by the Holy Spirit of God as gifts of all kinds spring forth in the midst of the people of God: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation, and many more – every gift needed for the life and witness of the people of God. And, in case we think any one ministry more important than another (or downplay the importance of another part of the Church’s social witness to the world) we are reminded: “There are different forms of service but the same Lord.”

Finally, we see the spousal desire and God’s delight in it as Jesus attends (with his mother) the wedding at Cana. It was Mary who instigated this “beginning of his signs” as she directs the servants to “do whatever he tells you.” Interestingly, aside from Jesus and his disciples, according to the text is was only “the servers who had drawn the water [that] knew” just how the “good wine” had been procured at such a late hour in the festivities. God’s delight knows no bounds and God’s desire for life, justice, and peace invites us service that might surprise us.

I hope that you will take the time to enter into the Novena “9 Days for Life” and join in our Evening Prayer for Life (Jan 22), OneLife LA (Jan 23), and for our Spanish-speaking community the Congreso Hispano (Jan 30). During this time, we set aside a special time of prayer for the vulnerable and those in need of protection at any stage of life, whether in the womb, or in a situation of domestic violence, or the threat of deportation, a refugee’s impossible journey, or facing a terminal illness. May we look for the signs of the one who turns water into wine and the God who delights in us, giving us a new name, and calling us to solidarity with the forsaken, accompanying them in their journey, and being transformed along the way!

–by Greg Walgenbach, Director of Life, Justice & Peace, Diocese of Orange