Bottom of the Barrel

Sometimes miracles happen when you’ve reached the bottom of the barrel.

A little story:

When a deacon is ordained, they’re always placed in two ministries.

One assignment to a parish, and another to a ministry of charity.

This ministry is usually to the marginalized people like those at a soup kitchen, food pantry, nursing home, hospital, or prison.

Mine is at a homeless shelter in Buffalo, called Little Portion Friary.

Twice a month, I volunteer there in a residence-assistant sort of capacity.

I assign chores, enforce them, keep order, and keep track of people’s comings and goings.

A couple weeks ago, I was on a 6-11pm shift, and a phone call came in from a man who needed a bed.

We had one, but it was 10:00 p.m., and very late to start the paperwork on a new guest coming in.

It usually takes about two hours to get them settled in.

It was a late, and I wanted to go home, but I knew I should, so I told him to come down.

The man showed up on this 35-degree rainy night, soaking wet.

He said he had not eaten all day, and hadn’t slept indoors in weeks.

I got him processed and to his room, and he thanked me for helping him out.

I was in a rush to get home, and I sort of blew him off and hurried him along, saying,

“No problem, man. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing.”

He stopped me and said,

“No, sir, you worked a miracle tonight.

I haven’t prayed in a long time.

But I prayed today that something might happen, and you answered the phone.”

Miracles happen in the midst of service

It’s not an accident that the water for today’s miracle came from six stone jars used for Jewish ceremonial washings.

Foot washings.

This water didn’t come from a container that would ever be used for drinking water.

And there’s a reason for that.

When we look forward to a story this is foreshadowing, we know what Jesus ends up doing with ceremonial foot washing water at the last supper.

In the midst of the greatest miracle, the Eucharist, Jesus got down, stooped down, and served.

Miracles happen when we reach out to others in service.

The Steward

And he didn’t do this miracle today without help.  Someone had to respond to his summons.

Somebody had to move.

The servers could have said,

“Who is this guy?”

“That’s a lot of water, man.”

“You’re not my boss.”

They had other responsibilities.

They didn’t need to listen to some guest, but they did, and a miracle happened – because they served.

They did, as his Mother suggests, “whatever he tells you.”

He could have made wine out of nothing.  No doubt. Everything we experience came out of nothing!

He has that power and he made that happen.

But usually when he performs a miracle, he takes what is already there – the gifts we have – and makes them into something better. Something more.

He can work miracles by himself, but he chooses to use us.

That’s why he gives us the gifts mentioned in the Second Reading:

Knowledge, wisdom, faith, healing, mighty deeds, prophecy, discernment of spirits, varieties of tongues, and so many more to accomplish his plan.

To draw people to himself, and to bring him glory.

We have these gifts given to us at our baptism. It’s a real thing! We better use them!

And not for our own sake, but for his glory.

Miracles happen every day

Not every miracle is a supernatural phenomenon.

But miracles at God’s hands always lead to him.

And they always bring him glory.

That’s why he performed them so frequently.

Not so that people would be amazed at what he does, but so that they might take notice of him, and enter into a relationship with him.

And in this new relationship, we are called to move, and we respond.

We Are Servants

So, when we serve others, we are miracle workers.

We are never likely to change water into wine.

But if you ask the person we’re helping, when they really need it, it’s no less an event.

Sometimes nobody notices.

Sometimes nobody thanks us.

Sometimes people take it for granted.

It doesn’t matter, because God notices and it brings him glory.

He’s ready to work mighty deeds through us each day.

Deeds that really matter.

We just have to listen to his call – and when he calls we have to move.

What an honor. What a responsibility.

So we pray today for the grace to listen to his call and to move to do whatever he tells us.

Because when we do, miracles abound.

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