Different insight from the wedding of Cana account

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, at St. Joseph Church in Alexandria.

Isn't the scene in today's Gospel reading very familiar to us? It's the scene of the wedding feast of Cana to which Jesus, His disciples and His mother had been invited. We have this Gospel reading proclaimed at weddings, in many feasts of Our Blessed Mother, and on this Second Sunday of Ordinary Time in Cycle C.

Now the Word of God, recorded in the Scriptures, is eternal and timeless. In other words, the Word of God does not change with the times, but rather has the power to speak to everyone in every age. It is an endless fountain that refreshes every time we drink from it. Not only that, but even when we encounter the same Gospel reading many times, that is to say, when we go to the same fountain over and over again, we still find that we are always refreshed, and that each trip to that fountain is unique and refreshing in its own way. Through His eternal Word, God speaks to each of us the word we need to hear at that particular time of our lives. So while we may think we have found everything there is to find in the words of a Scripture passage, the truth is that we will never reach the depths of the wisdom of the Scriptures.

The Gospel this morning - the miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana - is the perfect example of the depth and breadth of God's Word, for it provides countless truths on which to meditate. We see Jesus and Mary at a wedding feast, and we remember how much God wants to bless the marriage of a man and a woman and make it fruitful. We see Mary attentive that the newlyweds have run out of wine, and we remember how Mary sees when we are in need and intercedes to Her Son Jesus for us. We hear Mary tell the servers to "Do whatever he tells you," and we are reminded how we must heed these words every moment of our lives if we want to share in God's victory over evil, sin, suffering and death. We see Jesus turn the water into wine, and we know that nothing is impossible for God! And we see how much wine Our Lord makes - more than 120 gallons! - and we know that Jesus pours out His gifts on us with extravagant abundance.

Yes, this Gospel passage, because it is part of God's eternal and timeless Word, has so much wisdom to offer us, so many lessons for our growing into a closer relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Remember, God's Word is like an endless fountain, which we can never exhaust completely. I relearned this truth last summer while on an all-silent, eight-day retreat with some other bishops. I was asked to reflect on this Gospel scene: the Wedding Feast of Cana. As I was praying over this text, I recalled all the truths which we just listed, all flowing from meditating on this scene. But then, in His goodness, God led me to another truth, a particular aspect which had eluded me every time previously when I pondered the meaning. This specific aspect I had always missed was the servers' response to Jesus. Recall that the wine had run out and the Mother of Jesus, wishing to spare the newlyweds great embarrassment, informed Jesus of this impending catastrophe: "They have no wine." When Jesus' response seemed to say that He would do nothing about her concern since His hour had not yet come, His Mother simply said to the servers: "Do whatever He tells you."

So imagine the servers at that point. Jesus comes over to them and says, "Fill the jars with water." What were the servers thinking when they heard that? Because they, more than anyone, knew that there was no more wine. So when Jesus told them to fill the jars with water, they must have thought that Our Lord's words made no sense! "Water we have; it's wine that we need!"

We know what this is like. We go to Our Lord when we are running low on the good things in our lives, such as health, or friendship, or happiness, or faith, or patience, and we wait for Him to do something about it. In those times, we think that we know exactly what Jesus should do and when He should do it. And when Jesus does not do what we expect Him to do, we think just like those servers and say, "Lord, I need wine! Stop trying to give me water!"

But the servers filled the jars with water, and they filled them to the brim. And when they brought them to Jesus, Our Lord turned all of that water into wine! And there was much rejoicing, because it was not just ordinary wine. It was the best wine they had ever tasted.

Yes, Our Lord had a plan that was greater than anyone could have imagined, even the waiters. So while they thought Jesus was leading them in the wrong direction, when they did what He told them to do, they were blessed far beyond what they had asked for.

So when we are struggling and we go to Jesus to ask for help, we have to be ready for anything: ready for Him to lead us in any direction, ready for Him to tell us to do something out of the ordinary, something that makes no earthly sense, or even ready for Him to completely ignore the plans that we have. Why? Because He is the Lord, and He knows how to answer our prayers!

When we look at the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., we recognize the same pattern in his life, for with him, Jesus wrote straight with crooked lines. As Martin Luther King, Jr. pursued the cause for civil rights through the Gospel of Jesus and non-violence protests, he was arrested and thrown in jail. He met with rage and police dogs and high-pressure jets of - you guessed it - water. He was opposed not only by his oppressors, but also by those who were being oppressed alongside him, because they disagreed with his peaceful, Christian tactics.

How many times did Martin Luther King, Jr. think that God was telling him to fill up jars of water when he knew they needed wine? Yet through his faithful perseverance came the "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" and the Nobel Peace Prize and the March on Washington with his inspirational "I Have a Dream" speech, and, greatest of all, numerous victories against racism and inequality in our country. So while the route he traveled was surely not the road he would have chosen himself, the successes he gained by walking with Jesus Christ were certainly more than he could have ever imagined. Yes, through Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus was able to offer America an abundance of His best wine.

Of course, we know that more of this best wine is needed. We know that today, almost 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, countless initiatives and efforts rooted in prayer are needed for the cause of justice and racial equality in our country and in our world. As we look around, we are tempted to ask God, "What is taking so long? This is not how I would do this! Why is there still so much hatred and violence today?"

However if we listen with faith, we can hear Jesus say, "Keep praying. Keep working. Keep filling up those jars with the water of your best efforts. I have a plan, and it's greater than anything you can imagine."

Within today's Gospel passage, there is this little known lesson: the truth that the servers found out. It is this: Our Lord has a plan for each and every one of us, a plan that ends with victory and joy and everything good in extravagant abundance. All we need to do is trust in Him: "Do whatever He tells you."

"Yes, Lord, we believe in You! Help us to believe in You more! Change the water we bring You into wine: the wine that is Your will because, in the end, that wine, Your will, is the best. Amen! Alleluia!"

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016