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Second Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle C (1)
During a wedding rehearsal, the groom approached the priest with an unusual offer. “Look, I’ll give you $100 if you’ll change the wedding vows. When you get to the part where I’m to promise to ‘love, honor, and obey’ and ‘forsaking all others, be faithful to her forever,’ I’d appreciate it if you’d just leave that part out.” He slipped the priest the cash and walked away.
The wedding day arrived. When it came time for the groom’s vows, the priest looked the young man in the eye and said, “Will you promise to prostrate yourself before her, obey her every command and wish, serve her breakfast in bed every morning of your life and swear eternally before God and your lovely wife that you will not ever even look at another woman, as long as you both shall live?”
The groom gulped and looked around and then said in a tiny voice, “I do.”
After the ceremony, the groom pulled the priest aside and hissed, “I thought we had a deal.”
The priest gave him back his $100 and said, “We did, but the bride’s father made me a much better deal.”
A wedding was under way in Cana in Galilee when the hosts ran out of wine. This was an embarrassing predicament. Jesus’ mother Mary was there as well as Jesus and his disciples. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” This reply sounds much harsher than it really was. The word which in English is translated “woman” is, in the Greek, a term of endearment. It is not a term of scolding or contempt, but of great affection. It does, however, speak to Christ’s lack of eagerness about revealing his messianic mission. The time was not quite here for that. Nevertheless, Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Those are important words: “Do whatever he tells you.”
Nearby stood six large stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing. Each of these jars held from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
You know what happens next. When the master of the banquet tasted the water it had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then the master of the banquet called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first & then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
John then adds these words, “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”
Have you ever noticed that God always does things in abundance? When Jesus turns six huge jars of water into wine, we have almost 150 gallons. I’m sure that could have kept Cana going for over a week! Yet it’s the excess of this, the first of Jesus’ signs, that is the point: God comes into our lives with an excess, an abundance, that overwhelms us, once we learn to see it. As the guests had to discover water turned to wine by tasting it, so we have to discover an abundance in our lives that we often overlook. The abundance we think we need of money tries to substitute for the abundance of divine love and life, all around us, if we only could see it.
Jesus comes as the bridegroom of God, as God’s love incarnate. The wine he supplies is the joy that he brings from our encounter with God. That joy comes from the Holy Spirit—the Spirit Paul talks about—a spirit of divine life bringing forth in our lives an abundance of gifts and graces. Just as we often ignore the beauty of nature around us, so we often ignore the signs of the Spirit’s presence in our lives. Praying, caring, reflecting, consoling, contemplating, singing, greeting, being faithful—the gifts are all around.
Jesus says that his hour has not yet come. But Mary seems to provoke the moment. The signs that Jesus does will inevitably lead to his “hour”—when all his signs will climax into the final sign of God’s salvation: Jesus’ death and resurrection. From that self-gift will pour forth the Holy Spirit, a spirit that makes us like Christ, and empowers us to continue, in our own way, Jesus’ signs of mercy, grace, and joy.
So often we think of our lives only as water, plain, colorless, almost tasteless. That’s because we have not recognized our “hour”—when we discover how God sends us forth to accomplish God’s mission. So our lives seem ones of obligation, of routine, of just moving onto the next thing. But when we realize that God has called every one of us to be an ambassador of divine love, when we realize that every one of us has an “hour” to accomplish, then the wine of our lives becomes clear. Nothing we do will ever be ordinary. Rather, God’s grace is transforming it all.
At Mass, it’s not water that changes into wine, but wine into the blood of Christ. The Jews believed that life was in the blood; blood made us live. So in the sign of his chalice, his cup of blood, revealed in the consecrated wine, we see that Christ’s hour continues, and the hours of our lives become part of the abundance he brings to the world.
Have you ever noticed that Jesus always seemed to work in unexpected ways? Imagine, for example, you have a problem with your eye and go to a doctor. He says, “Come let me spit on the ground and make mud and put it in your eye.” Which one of you would do as he says? We would probably run in the opposite direction.
Or imagine that one of you had skin cancer and came to me and asked me to pray for you and I were to tell you to go show yourself to another pastor down the road? That’s sort of what Jesus did. Would that makes sense to you?
Or imagine there is a crowd with more than ten thousand people to feed; five thousand of that number were men alone (and we know about men and their appetites), and he says to you, “Go feed them with these five barley loaves and two fish.”
You would most certainly be incredulous in all of those circumstances. Those instructions do not make sense to the natural mind but, as Paul writes in Corinthians 1:25, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
Jesus’ response to Mary’s request that he do something to solve this embarrassing situation at this wedding celebration is one of those incidents that don’t make sense.
Telling the servants to take the jars to their boss would require great respect and trust in him. They could lose their job or worse their freedom if their master found out that they had given him wine to drink taken from these purification jars. It just did not make any sense, but they did it nonetheless. Mary said, “Do whatever he tells you,” and they servants did exactly that.
We know the importance of obedience in the Christian life. It’s not always possible to know what God wants us to do with our lives, but it is important, that as best we are able to discern God’s will, we are to do it. It certainly would be easier to do “whatever he tells you” if we were certain of what he was telling us to do, but that’s not always easy. But that’s true in human relationships as well.
A woman tells about one time when her mother visited her. For breakfast the first morning she made tea for her mother’s breakfast and coffee for her own.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” her mother said. “I much prefer having coffee.”
“But, mother,” the daughter protested, “you always drank tea at breakfast at home.” “True,” her mother agreed. “You see, before I got married, I used to have coffee at breakfast. But I found that your father liked tea, and I thought it was silly to make both.” The daughter suggested that if, after 37 years of marriage, she preferred coffee, then that’s what she should have.
Back in her own home, her mother started making coffee for herself but the usual tea for her husband.
After a week or so, her husband looked up from his breakfast. “How is it,” he asked plaintively, “that you can have coffee in the morning, and I have to have tea?” I have no idea how many years this couple had gone assuming that they knew what the other wanted. You don’t have to be married for long, though, to have such misunderstandings.
Somebody saw an ad in a newspaper. “Bike For Sale: Suzuki 1000. This bike is perfect! It has 1000 miles and has had its 500 mile dealer service. (Expensive.) It’s been adult ridden and all wheels have always been on the ground. I used it as a cruiser/commuter. I’m selling it because it was purchased without proper consent of my loving wife. Apparently, ‘Do whatever you want!’ doesn’t mean what I thought. Ask for Steve.”
Ah, the joys of married life. No wonder we have difficulty discerning God’s will for our lives, if we can’t even communicate our desires to one another. It’s difficult for us to know sometimes what God desires out of us. But I can suggest an area in which God’s will is pretty clear.
It’s also God’s will for us to take care of our responsibilities. I know it is tiring to hear, but one of the keys to a satisfying life is to make sure we take care of our responsibilities, whether they be at work or in our neighborhood, or at home; whether they be to our civic club or to our church. I can promise you that failing to meet your responsibilities only leads to guilt and shame.
I know, that’s a word that some of us do not want to hear.
Pastor Richard J. Fairchild tells a fictional story by Laura Richards which appears in a book called The Moral Compass. It concerns a meeting between an angel called “The Angel Who Tends to Things” and a man at work.
“I have come to speak to you about your work,” said the Angel-Who-Attends-to-Things. “It appears to be unsatisfactory.”
“Indeed!” said the man, “I hardly see how that can be. Perhaps you will explain.”
“I will,” said the Angel. “To begin with the work is slovenly.”
“I was born heedless,” said the man. “It is a family failing which I have always regretted.”
“It is ill put together, too,” said the Angel. “The parts do not fit.”
“I never had any eye for proportion,” said the man. “I admit it is unfortunate.”
“The whole thing is a botch,” said the Angel. “You have put neither brains nor heart into it, and the result is a ridiculous failure. What do you propose to do about it?”
“I credited you with more comprehension,” said the man. “My faults, such as they are, were born with me. I am sorry that you do not approve of me, but that is the way I was made. Do you see?”
“I see!” said the Angel. He put out a strong hand, and taking the man by the collar, threw him head-over-heels into the ditch near where they were standing.
“What is the meaning of this?” cried the man as he scrambled out breathless and dripping. “I never saw such behavior. Do you not see what you have done? You have ruined my clothes, and nearly drowned me besides.”
“Oh yes!” said the Angel. “This is the way I was made.” (3)
Ah, yes. We have our rationalizations for being the way we are. But sooner or later we have to face up to our responsibilities. Sooner or later this is a lesson we all have to learn. If you doubt that is so, see what happens to celebrities when they live only for their own gratification. Either they grow up, or eventually they die at a young age, or they become bitter, dissolute individuals. The secret of a successful life is really quite simple. In the words of Mary to the servants, “Do whatever Christ tells you.”
And look what happens when we do whatever he tells us. I love the way the story of the wedding at Cana ends. As the master of the banquet tasted the wine taken from the water jars, he says, “You have saved the best till now.”
That is one of the great messages of the New Testament. For those who seek to live as God wants us to live, He always saves the best till last. Things work out better when we do what Christ says.
There are some people today who will testify that their latter years have been their best years. Even though they may not be able to do what they once were able to do, a lifetime of seeking to do God’s will in their lives has made for fulfilling lives. Take care of your relationships. Take care of your responsibilities. And, more than likely, your last years will be your best years. The great secret of life, “Do whatever the Master tells you.”
2. (Reader’s Digest USA).