14 January 2007
A few months back, there was a continuing news story about a west coast family stranded in a snowstorm. Imagine what that family was going through. They must have been clinging to any beacon of hope, no matter how small, to see them through this desolate situation to safety.
We too often find ourselves in desolate circumstances in our lives, especially our spiritual lives. Yet these circumstances may not be as evident as those in our physical lives, yet they are no less real. The trick is to put ourselves in touch with the spiritual realities of our lives. We will find that we are a people of hope! God has given us a beacon of hope in our desolation: Jesus Christ. In the Gospels of the past two weeks and this week, God has made His Son manifested, He has shown His Son to the world in three very distinct ways: Through the light of a star that led the Magi through the desert to the Child Jesus, Through the appearance of a dove that hovered over the newly baptized Jesus in the Jordan, and this week, through the actions of Jesus Himself at the wedding feast at Cana.
Because this latest manifestation is done by actions of Jesus Himself, it tells us much more about His mission and His Covenant with us. There are several points within the story that reveal this mission:
1. It is done during a wedding reception, the celebration of a covenant relationship between two people – a man and a woman – that is meant to reflect the Covenant relationship between God and His people, between Christ and His Church. There is a major difference between a covenant and a contract. We are familiar with contracts, we live with them every day. A contract is an exchange of goods and services. When a person goes into a store to buy a hair dryer, he or she takes up the hair dryer and hands over the commensurate compensation in monetary form. When that person goes home and finds out that the dryer doesn’t work – it blows up or something, he or she immediately takes it back to the store and tries to work out a deal with the merchant to exchange it. If no such arrangement can be settled upon, then the person’s money is returned and the contract is broken. This is all well and good for things, but when it comes to our relationship with people, and especially our relationship with God, the contract scenario falls woefully short. It cheapens the dignity of each human person involved.
God has established a Covenant relationship with us, and based on that model, expects up to form covenant relationships with one another. A covenant is a profound exchange of persons, “I am yours and you are mine.” It is characterized by a total self-giving of one person to another. Nothing is held back in a covenant relationship.
2. This leads to our second point. Jesus’ miracle involves improving a potentially embarrassing situation, the lack of wine for a major family feast. In it, Jesus takes ordinary water and changes it into the finest wine the party-goers have ever tasted. This miracle is meant as a sort of first step toward His total self-giving to us, the changing of wine into His blood, and the shedding of that blood in sacrifice for our sins.
The miracle itself tells us something about ourselves and what Jesus can do for us. We can look at our lives and see ourselves as terribly bland, like water, flat with no real exciting taste to it. I know that I can look back on my life and see how much of a schmuk I’ve been, how could God love me. Yet God does love us. We’ve all heard that before, and it’s true. Yet our first reading tells us more, that God rejoices in us. He gives us a promise that our lives, desolate because of sin, will become the Delight of the Lord, “Espoused” in an extraordinary way to the grace of God.
And God has fulfilled this promise in Jesus Christ. Jesus not only was willing to change ordinary water into fine wine, He also wants to take our ordinary lives and make them extraordinary, filled with grace and vigor. He can do this, if only we will take the advice of His Mother and ours:
“Do whatever He tells you.”