Today’s Gospel ( John 2:1-11) is a wonderful example of God wanting us to be happy and it contains important lessons from Mary, the Mother of God on how to achieve it.
We just read about the miracle at Cana. It is interesting that in the gospel of John, Jesus’ first miracle is at a wedding? So, let’s unpack the scene.
Jesus is at a small party. And the wine runs out. Jesus’ mother Mary tells him the wine is gone. And then she tells the headwaiter “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus tells the waiter to fill up 6 ceremonial jars with water.
We’re all familiar with what happens next. Jesus turns the water into wine. But remember the context. It’s probably a relatively small party. People have already been drinking freely. You might expect Jesus to make a few more gallons of wine and then tell everyone to call it a night. Do you know how much wine he makes? Somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of wine!
John also tells us that this miracle revealed Christ’s glory. God glories in our joy. God is overwhelmingly generous. St Thomas Aquinas has a phrase: “Goodness is diffusive of itself.” This means that goodness spreads by its own power. And since God is all good, he can’t contain his generosity. It overflows into every corner of our lives.
So does God actually want us to be happy? Does He want to fill our lives with joy? Yes. But how is the key.
The first key is an attitude of creative service. Mary was not in charge of this wedding at Cana. In the ancient world, it was always the bride’s father who was in charge. Weddings were some of the very few occasions in ancient times when common, working class people could take time off to celebrate and enjoy themselves
When Jesus and his newly formed band of followers showed up, they would have joined right in. And with the added drinking capacity of a bunch of hardy fishermen, it’s no wonder that they ran out of wine. But the interesting thing is that the head caterer (the “headwaiter”), the one who was responsible for providing food and drink throughout the wedding festivities, was not the one who noticed that the wine was running short.
Instead, it was Mary. Even in the midst of a party, a wedding feast where she was a guest and not a hostess, she kept her attention on the needs of others. She didn’t become so self-absorbed in having a good time that she forgot about those around her. Instead, she recognized the potential disaster, and then she took the initiative to do something about it – to help avert the great embarrassment and disappointment that running out of wine would cause to the bride’s family. That was Mary’s habitual approach to life: she always fostered an attitude of creative service.
She kept her eyes open for opportunities to help others, and she took the initiative to seize those opportunities. This is how she reflected in her own day-to-day life the goodness and generosity of God, who is always thinking of us and providing for us and watching over us.
An attitude of creative service is the first key to being a true follower of Christ.
St Vincent Pallotti said it well: “Remember that the Christian life is one of action; not of speech and daydreams… In heaven we shall rest.”
The second key is unbounded confidence in Jesus. Mary noticed the problem, and she wanted to do something about it. But what exactly could she do? Even though she didn’t have the resources to solve the problem all by herself, she knew exactly who did have the resources: her son. And so she goes to Jesus, catches his eye, and simply puts the need before him: “They have no wine.”
What a beautiful prayer! She doesn’t give Jesus a specific to-do list, as if she were trying to micro-manage God. But she isn’t afraid to be specific and concrete about the need itself. She knows her son very well. She knows that his heart is full of goodness, mercy, and love. She knows that he is the Messiah, the Son of God, is omnipotent. And so she approaches him with total confidence and openness, knowing that the unique combination of infinite love and unlimited omnipotence will be able to solve this problem.
That’s how we need to approach Jesus. He is our Savior; he came to earth for our sake – as we pray each week in the Creed. He loves us without condition, and his infinite wisdom and power are at the service of that love. Even when Jesus doesn’t answer our prayers the way we would like him to, we can be certain that he knows what he is about. In our needs, in our confusion, in our troubles and sufferings, we should make Mary’s prayer our own: “They – we, I – have no wine…”
Confidence in Jesus – trust in the incomparable combination of his limitless love, power, and wisdom. This is the second key to spiritual maturity.
We’re created in the image and likeness of God, who is generous. So when we are generous we start to share in God’s joy. We are also truly fulfilled when we rejoice with others. What’s my first reaction when I hear of someone else’s success? How do I respond to the joys of my friends? How do I react to the joys of those who have offended me?
Life is not a zero-sum game – if you win, I lose. On the contrary. The gifts of one are the gifts of all, and if we rejoice with others it opens wonderful new windows in our own lives to the action of God.
This is the image of Christianity that attracts. We’re not closed in and fearful; we rejoice in the good things God has given us, and we rejoice in the good things he has given others.
And this attitude does not come overnight. It’s a gift from God, and it’s one we need to ask for. So today let’s ask Jesus to show us any roadblocks in our hearts that impede us from sharing in others’ joy, and let’s ask him to help us to truly rejoice with them.
Mary, the Mother of God, is teaching us today how to follow Christ, how to become a mature Christian: By imitating her attitude of creative service, by sharing in her confidence in Jesus, and by joining her obedience to God’s will, we will travel surely and swiftly along the path of a truly fulfilling, meaningful, and everlasting life.