14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
Picture: cc kenichi nobusue
My dear friends, do you know what a champagne tower is? Do you know what it looks like? It’s usually seen at wedding dinners and receptions. Glasses are stacked up in the shape of a pyramid. And then champagne is poured into the top glass until it overflows and fills all the others below. It’s quite a striking sight. Something that really adds to the joy of the occasion.
And what’s so striking about it is the way in which the champagne overflows first one glass, and then another, and another. Until all the glasses are filled. Every glass, except the first, is filled only through the overflow of the ones before it. Each glass receives champagne until it is too full to hold anymore. Then, from its own fullness, it shares what it has received with those that come after it. A continual overflow of joy. A truly impressive sight!
Of course, we don’t really need all those glasses to celebrate the occasion. To spread the joy. We could also do what those winners of Formula One races do. Just pop open the champagne bottle and spray the liquid onto everyone around. That’s quite enjoyable too. But then the moment would pass far too quickly, wouldn’t it? And the champagne would be lost. We wouldn’t be able to save it. To savour it. To share it. The glasses are important, because they allow us to receive and to hold the champagne. To sip it slowly. Together. And then to pass it on to others. Without glasses we experience only a brief spray. A passing shower. Instead of an abundant overflow of joy.
A tower of champagne glasses overflowing with joy. This is the image that our Mass readings bring to mind today. In the first reading, God calls the city of Jerusalem and all those associated with her to rejoice. For Jerusalem is like a mother nursing her children from her luscious breasts. Breasts filled with the milk of joy. But from where does this joy come? It doesn’t originate from Jerusalem herself. It comes instead from God. Who promises to send peace flowing like a mighty river. Flowing into the Holy City. Filling her, and causing her to overflow to others.
Peace and joy poured out by God into Jerusalem. And then overflowing from Jerusalem to all her children. Much like how champagne is poured first into the top-most glass of a tower of glasses. And then overflows to the others that come after it. A powerful and consoling image. Of joy and peace gratefully received. And then generously shared with others.
Isn’t this what Jesus is asking of the seventy-two in the gospel? The Lord himself is filled to overflowing with the love, joy and peace that are the fruit of the Spirit. And out of his own fullness, he calls disciples and fills them. Fills them, and then sends them out. To share what they have received with others. To fill them so that they too can overflow.
This is how God operates. This is how the Lord chooses to spread his Kingdom. Not just by spraying champagne all around. But by inviting people to allow themselves to become champagne glasses. Privileged receptacles. Ready to receive and to be filled. And then to share what has been received with others. Isn’t this what Jesus means when he tells his disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest? What does it mean to be a labourer in the Lord’s harvest, if not to allow oneself to be filled with love and joy and peace. And then, to simply let what we have received overflow to others.
To be a champagne glass in a tower of glasses. To be filled. To overflow. And to fill others. What do you think, sisters and brothers? Isn’t this an attractive invitation? Doesn’t it sound surprisingly simple? Why then do so many of us seem so reluctant, even resistant, to share with others what we have received? Why does it so often seem as though we Catholics come to Mass looking only to be sprayed? And not to be filled. Only to satisfy an obligation. And not to experience joy. Or, as someone has put it rather cleverly, only looking at what’s in it for me. Instead of what’s in me for it. Why do we need to be constantly reminded of our duty to share our faith? To evangelise. Shouldn’t evangelisation come naturally to us? As a joyful overflow of all we continue to receive?
How then do I become a more effective champagne glass? How can I better allow myself to be filled? To overflow? So as to fill everyone around me with the joy of the Lord? Perhaps we can find an answer by examining a champagne glass more closely. What makes a glass a glass is, of course, the empty space at its centre. The space into which the champagne is poured. The space out of which it overflows. To be a glass is to first have a space. Which can pose quite a problem for us. For our lives often seem far too full. Full of preoccupations and distractions. Full of activities and responsibilities. Full of people and things. How then to make space to receive? Let alone to overflow?
And yet, isn’t it also true that, as full as they may seem to be, our lives are also often marked by worries and disappointments. By sorrow and pain. By restlessness and boredom. Areas over which we have little or no control. Uncomfortably empty spaces that we often desperately try to fill in various ways. Sometimes sinfully. Usually unsuccessfully. Could this be where we need to begin? We stand in these empty spaces. And we cry out to God. Cry out with our complaints and our questions. Our protests and our lamentations.
And, if we are patient enough, we will hear God’s answer. Which is really always the same answer. The answer is simply I love you. Except that this answer is given not just in an abstract sentence. But in a living Word. A Word that has become flesh. And laid down his life for us on a cruel Cross. Which is why St. Paul can say, in the second reading, that the only thing I can boast about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. For it is in and through the Cross of Christ that Paul has found the answer to all his questions. It is in and through the powerful love of Christ that Paul has been filled to overflowing. Allowing him to fill others.
The experience of God’s love, in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The same experience that we gather to celebrate at every Mass. Especially when we listen to the living Word of God. And receive the precious Body of Christ. This, my dear friends, is how self-absorbed people are transformed into true champagne glasses. Ready to receive, to overflow, and to fill others with God’s love and joy and peace.
My sisters and brothers, how ready are you to overflow today?