20 January 2013

Wedding at Cana

Today's Gospel reading:

"There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short,
the mother of Jesus said to him,
“They have no wine.”
And Jesus said to her,
“Woman, how does your concern affect me?
My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servers,
“Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings,
each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told them,
“Fill the jars with water.”
So they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them,
“Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”
So they took it.
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine,
without knowing where it came from
— although the servers who had drawn the water knew —,
the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him,
“Everyone serves good wine first,
and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one;
but you have kept the good wine until now.”
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,
and his disciples began to believe in him."
John 2:1-11

The Wedding at Cana, painted by Paolo Veronese. I hope to see it in person when I visit Paris in March.

The Wedding at Cana has been one of my favorite Scripture passages, probably since I first heard of it. In my high school Sophomore U.S. History class, the students were asked to pick any moment in history we would visit if we could. I picked the Wedding at Cana. Weddings are such special celebrations. How much more amazing would it be to be present at the wedding during which Jesus performed his first miracle?

In his homily, Father talked--well, about a great many things, including Jewish wedding background, the theme of weddings throughout the Scriptures and a touch on Mary's piety--about a Dorothy Day story. Dorothy Day was a 20th century Catholic who worked to help the poor. In the story, she admits to having prayed with a sigh, "We have no wine." when she worried her supply of resources would not be enough to help everyone. When she said this prayer, she would have enough: an unexpected donation would be brought in at the last moment, the hungry would have enough food.

This simple prayer for help, with the knowledge of the Lord's love and grace, was uttered by Dorothy Day and our Blessed Mother in humility. Father said he brings up this prayer to couples during the marriage sacrament, telling them that, at some point, the wine will run out. We will face difficulties and feel our strength is not as strong as it once was. We will run closer to empty and we may feel fret and uncertainty sink in. But the Lord provides for us at our weakest. "For we rejoice that we are weak, and you are strong," Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians. Christ Jesus is our strength. He was able to save the celebration of the wedding and the potential shame of the bride and groom. He has been called upon to help ministers of his word do His will to help the poor. He will come to our aid in our time of need.

An important hinge of this grace, I think, is our attitude. We must be faithful and sincere, humble in our petitions. This does not mean our requests must be small: our God is great and can do all things. Rather, we must come to the Lord free of self-entitled opinions. We must not think we deserve his grace or mercy: we never could gain that for ourselves. As the Virgin Mary and Dorothy Day did, we should have faith that God can answer our earnest petitions, and will do so to further His kingdom. We should remember in times of difficulty that no earthly thing can have power over the Infinite.

One thing we also must not do is believe the Lord is absent when our prayers seem unanswered. There are things I have prayed about for months, even pressing on years. There have been times the physical pain of prayer answered differently than I desired has engulfed all my senses. Sometimes the answer to a prayer is simply: "No." I trust that God has a better plan in mind for me. He knows, and now I do as I look back, that the answers I once wanted were the wrong answers. He has shown me how His plan not merely denies, but surpasses immeasurably the ones I once held.

In times of difficulty, pray to the Lord. Today, the second day of Nine Days of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage, pray for the restoration of fathers who have cooperated with and consented to abortions. Pray that they will seek reconciliation and receive the comfort only God can provide. Pray without ceasing. Pray with eyes on the advancement of God's kingdom, with hearts open and aligned to His Will.

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