I’ve prayed with today’s Gospel reading – St. John’s account of the Wedding Feast at Cana – any number of times. What struck me in my prayer this morning, however, was not the miracle. Rather, it was Jesus’ response to his mother when she tells him their hosts had run out of wine. “What has this to do with me?”
What immediately came to my mind was Scrooge in the Christmas Carol when solicitors come seeking a contribution for the poor. “It’s not my business. It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s.”
And that, too often, is the response – consciously or unconsciously – to the pains and suffering of others. The fact that some lack adequate housing, food or medical care. The reality that many in other nations lack access to clean drinking water. The plight of refugees. What has this to do with me?
Mary’s response to Jesus, effectively, is: You’re here and you can do something about it, so do it. That’s the response to Scrooge and that is the response to us.
As I sat with that thought, I heard John Donne’s lines: “Every man is a piece of the continent…Any man’s death diminishes me, Because I am involved in mankind.”
I heard in reply. “You were there.”
At Mass this week, Father mentioned how we need to acknowledge and celebrate there are many who believe in the Kingdom of God, many who are filled with (the) ‘spirit’ and many who live righteous, charitable lives. He continued and expressed, that in the Catholic tradition, through the Sacraments and scared traditions there is an opportunity of increased fullness in ‘Spirit,’ in grace and blessings, and also in life. Such an uplifting message. . .
In similar fashion, should (need) we not then acknowledge and celebrate a similar fullness in ‘Spirit’ and fullness in life of the ‘sacred’ doctrine, traditions, and liturgy of our brothers and sisters of other faiths, beliefs, and practices – they, who are also filled with increased grace and blessings through their devotions?
“This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mark 1:14–20) “You are my beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
At Mass this morning, the Gospel reading was the Wedding Feast at Cana in Galilee (John 2; 1–11). The Gospel is also a foretelling that “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” From a Christian perspective, the dawn of the Messianic prophecy of ‘water to wine’ was fulfilled. The tradition of selecting one’s spiritual teacher (Old Wine) came into conjunction with the Messiah (New Wine).
Jesus, in changing water into wine, an overflowing, and an abundance of wine, fulfilled the prophecy. Jesus’ first miracle, performed before His time, foretold the coming of His pouring out of Himself, the ultimate sacrifice, of His redeeming us, of His overcoming death, of His ‘choosing’ us, of His inviting us to share in the Messianic prophecy’s fulfillment:
“Then afterward I will pour out my Spirit upon all mankind. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men (women) shall dream dreams, your young men (women) shall see visions; Even upon the servants and the handmaids, in those days, I will pour out My Spirit”. (Joel 3: 1–2) And then, on that day, the mountains shall drip new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk; And the channels of Judah shall flow with water: A fountain shall issue from the house of the Lord, to water the Valley of Shittim.” (Joel 3:18)
During the past week, as the January 22, March for Life 2016 approaches, some influential EWTN programming regressed to messages of privilege, righteousness and exclusion. Such a disheartening, and a return to an all too familiar, message. . .
In our own country we are challenged to respectfully respond. . .
Are all who use contraceptives for family planning guilty of fostering and partially responsible for a culture of violence and death – a violence and death that has occurred because we have taken God out of schools and removed references of God in our secular society?
Are couples who choose lives of no children, or parents who have or desire one or two children innately and selfishly seeking ‘only’ the pleasures and comforts of a materialistic world?
Is the belief that families with many children are the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God – where the love shared and expressed in large families will bring about more love, more peace and more contentment in the world?
If, as claimed by EWTN, 27% of our population are strong proponents of abortion, are those devoted to ‘Right to Life’ (the remaining 73%) being assaulted by a ‘society’ and a ‘culture’ of death? Dignified efforts to protect and promote life by the large majority are a much healthier and persuasive approach to reducing the number of abortions than the continued vilification of those advocating ‘Choice.’
Are the ‘few’ who advocate euthanasia (the few who may choose euthanasia) the demonic threat to society many Christians proclaim?
Is there a Christian alive who does not only proclaim, but who truly ‘walks with the Lord,’ who does not experience the ‘retreat’ of evil during their encounters with others? We are all called to confront evil, not shrink from its presence – called to be Christ’s presence in the world, not to be self-proclaimed ‘inquisitors’ categorically condemning those whose beliefs do not align with ours.
Susan has expressed many, many times that we are all called to be ‘magnates’ for Christ, not righteous ‘scribes’ of our version of salvation’s itinerary.
On Sunday, March 23, 2014, when Jesus answered my lament, “Lord, if only you were here,” with a hint of disdain, “You were there.” (Spiritually there at the well with the Jesus and the Samaritan woman) – I believe His words more each day. . .
I awake each new day to our Lord’s greeting, “Wake up you sleeping head, Come! There is work to be done.” When my day invites me to a place of worship, place of business, place of learning, the market place, construction site, nature’s playground, the homes of loved ones, friends or strangers, and the list goes on.
Each morning, while thankfully accepting His invitation and while walking with His Son, during the moments I (we) most often encounter the ‘Spirit’ of my brothers and sisters introduced to me in Perpetua’s native Carthage up to and including our encounters today – I believe the Kingdom of God is here, that His Kingdom is not a faith inspired longing; it is a reality.
The ‘Spirit’ of His children, my brothers and sisters past and present, are there to ‘Watch Over Me’ and they have shared, and continue to share, their God given ‘Gifts’ with me – enabling me to more fully share my God given ‘Gifts’ with others. All are called to be of His Kingdom. . .
I do believe EWTN, other media forums, including ‘The Church’ (all churches) are entitled to express their beliefs as (their) Scripture, tradition and ‘Teaching’ authorities proclaim – though in so doing, to declare The Church (any church, or any faith) ‘knows’ the hearts of all individuals not of their flock continues to ‘poison’ the wine (water changed to wine) Christian tradition professes as the dawn of the New Covenant’s arrival.
In Jesus’ day during the wedding feast, it was the bride groom’s responsibility, his most important and (some would say) his only responsibility, to provide the wine for an often extended celebration (life’s earthly journey). Are we all not so called? Called to offer of ourselves, our transformed selves, as earthly water internally transformed into the best of wine, into the ‘New Wine’ – offering our transformed selves, as Cyprian proclaimed, as an individual grain, to be transformed into the One Body of Christ?
From a Christian perspective, we are under the influence of the ‘New Wine’ – the influence of the Holy Spirit – the new wine of the new age of grace that Jesus paid for with His own blood. ‘It shouldn’t surprise us that people don’t understand it because naturally people will believe that after tasting the old wine, the new is not better for they will say “The old is good” ’ (Luke 5:39). Pathos: August 22, 2015 by Jack Wellman
“Remember who Jesus was talking too. He was interacting with the scribes and the Pharisees who were still living in and under the Old Covenant and thought “The old is good” and this new is undesirable. This is why Jesus used the parable of trying to put on a new patch onto an old garment. The new patch will shrink and pull away the threads from the already stretched garment that’s older. The new and the old cannot go together. In the same way, old wineskins cannot take the stretching that new wine will cause because it will burst the old wineskins and thus, they are not compatible with one another so the Old Covenant is not compatible with the new and better covenant brought about by Jesus Christ.” (Jack Wellman)
The vessel of the body is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, and the body is also the dwelling place of our most personal, precious gift from God – our gift of unconditional love.
In late 2012 at the request of a dear friend, to address the Catholic confirmation class she taught, I reflected upon Jesus’ last breath becoming our first, and the ‘gift’ of original sin that joins each to the other in our humanity – our brief earthly journey that offers our only opportunities to share the intimacy (warmth) of love, an intimacy expressed and shared upon which we will day soon be held accountable for all eternity.
At birth, cannot the bundle of new life wrapped in blanket blue or pink and presented to proud parents be likened to new wine, God’s perfect gifts of His New Covenant (unconditional love and presence of the Holy Spirit) poured out completely, poured into the vessel provided by proud parents – whether it be the artisans’ priceless, porcelain, kiln fired amphorae from the privileged to the hand formed, sun dried clay bowl of the less fortunate of society, the content of God’s gift is immediately sealed and precious protected by one and all.
New life, the vessel of life, is a beloved gift from God presented to ‘adoptive parents’ upon whom His Gifts depend. The sealed, vintage vessel of life begins an earthly journey in darkness often continually seeking the ‘Light.’
Often a vessel of life is inscribed, achievements chronicled and its surface adorned by its adoptive parents until the age of reason when both son or daughter and parents begin a journey of enlightenment – often shared ‘darkness’ seeking shared ‘Light.’
When the vessel of Jesus’ life, the temple of his body, was broken (destroyed) almost beyond recognition and He requested, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” was it not through the ‘brokenness’ of His suffering, His ultimate sacrifice, and His Resurrection that the ‘Light’ shown through the darkness, forever to illuminate, never more to be concealed (sealed) – that the transformation of the ‘Water being turned into Wine’ prophecy was completely fulfilled in the First Eucharist?
“. . . This is my body to be given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.” (Luke 22:19–20) The Eucharistic Sacrifice is a calling (. . . my body ‘to be’ given. . . my blood, which ‘will be’ shed . . .”) as much as a sacred, reverenced and celebrated memorial and model embraced by most of Christianity – though not allowed to be offered and shared universally.
“You are my beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Are all of “My beloved” not called, “Do this in Remembrance of Me.”
The Eucharist is much more than a memorial and a model, it is a calling to all His beloved to pour out completely our most precious ‘Gifts’ from God. As Jesus poured out completely His humanity received from His Father for each of us , are we not so called to pour out completely for each other our most precious gifts received from the Father, our ‘gifts’ of unconditional love and our presence of the Holy Spirit?
As a vintage creation, like the vintage ‘New Wine’ we were created to be, we too are requested, before our time, to pour out completely our most precious gifts. In faith, “I tell you, I will not drink this fruit of the vine from now until the day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s reign,” (Matthew 26:29) a belief in preserving and enabling us to share with Jesus the vintage (the ‘New Wine) of our birth that our adoptive parents and ourselves have preserved, celebrated and chronicled since birth when we hopefully come into the Father’s reign is most compelling.
In breaking the seal to the vessel of our life ‘before our time’, before the end of days, and by pouring out a portion, by bringing into the light and sharing in the light our most precious gifts, we are assured, no matter how tightly we attempt to reseal the vessel of our life, the contents will be spoiled by light and oxidation when the day arrives and we are offered opportunity to “drink the fruit of the vine. . .” anew upon the Father’s reign.
Is not our vintage creation (New Wine) destined for similar spoil and ruin if we journey through earthly life in darkness, fearful of light or oxidation ever encountering the contents (fearful and guarded of sharing our God given Gifts in the light)?
When we pour out completely our gifts of unconditional love and the Holy Spirit before our (perceived) time, it is through faith we can be assured we will be replenished and refreshed, “. . . Then the waiter in charge called the groom over and remarked to him; “People usually serve the choice wine first; then when the guests have been drinking awhile, a lesser vintage. What you have done is keep the choice wine until now.” (John 2:9-10) In faith, we are assured to be continually replenished and refreshed as ‘new wine’, for “. . . on that day, the mountains shall drip new wine.’ We, His beloved, are the ‘choice wine’ called to be poured out completely and to be shared. “I solemnly assure you, the man who has faith in me will do the works I do, and greater far than these. . .” (John 14:12)
In the Eucharist, all of His beloved are called, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Called to pour out completely our gifts of unconditional love and the Holy Spirit – called to offer our transformed selves, earthly water turned to ‘new wine’, transformed into the One Body of Christ.
“Mary’s response to Jesus, effectively, is: You’re here and you can do something about it, so do it.”
I heard in reply. “You were there.”