Thursday, January 21, 2010

Woman, why do you come to me?

Most of us know the story of the Wedding of Cana but there is one phrase that always used to bother me. John 2:3-4: When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." Jesus replies, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come."

Today Jesus words ring uncomfortably in our ears. It sounds rude. Why would Jesus refer to his Mom as “Woman” and seemingly rebuke her for coming to him to ask for help for this wedding couple?

This does not sound like the way a good son should refer to his mother.

But, as often the case, it would be a mistake to apply modern standards to words uttered thousands of years ago. And this also points out the problem in translation. The translation may be right but we may read too much into meaning – one culture’s use of the word “woman” may be completely innocent and still sound harsh in another culture.

It is far better to see this in context. Is Mary offended? How does she take Jesus words? What happens next?

In this case, Mary does not miss a beat. She does not take offense but simply tells the servants, “Do whatever He says.”

And this is the important part – Jesus helps.

Even though His hour had not yet come – it wasn’t time for Jesus to start his public ministry. Jesus helps anyway.

And he helps in a BIG way.

Have you ever thought about the wine? Jesus does not turn a glass of water into wine. Jesus directs the servants to fill the six empty stone water pots that were used for ceremonial washing (Mark 7:3). Each of these held about 2 or 3 firkins (20-30 gallons) of water!

He changes 6 of these water pots holding 20-30 gallons of water into wine. That is about 120-130 gallons of wine. I don’t care how big your wedding party is - that’s a lot of wine!

And not just any wine. This was not 2 buck chuck from Trader Joe’s. This was good wine – the best wine. Even the steward noticed. After Jesus told the servants to bring some to the steward of the feast to taste, the steward told the bridegroom, "Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now."

And the most important part – this was freely given. Jesus didn’t ask the groom to slip him some extra money. He didn’t ask for anything. And it wasn’t like the wedding party deserved it or did anything for it. Quite the opposite – they were the people that made the mistake. They had failed to order enough wine and were now about to be embarrassed in front of their family and friends. This was not the way for a new couple to start.

And it was too late – there was nothing they could do about it now. They could do nothing to help themselves.

Their only hope lay in Jesus.

And Jesus helped. He knew what to do and helped so perfectly that no one was embarrassed.

And that is the same for us.

So many times, we forget about Jesus when we make our plans for work or for our lives. We spend so many hours planning out every detail. Thinking though every possibility and contingency. What happens next? Every sequence, every branch, every action, reaction, and counter-action – in the planning world we often joke that we never run out of plan – only out of time. Oh we can plan!

And no matter how much we plan, how good we are, it is never really good enough. There is always a detail left out, a circumstance unforeseen.

Life is messy.

And then it seems that we finally turn to Jesus. “Oh God! God help me!” Even then, we are focused on what we want. What our plans would be to make things “perfect.”

But God just wants us to let go and trust Him.

God tells us that He knows what is best for us. From Matthew 7:9-12, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

God doesn’t want us to worry. From Matthew 6:25-27, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

So many times people pray for peace in our lives. We want to stop worrying about what is going to happen next. About what is going to happen with our children, our jobs, our lives. We are willing to give up anything for peace in our lives. Anything - except control.

Even when we know that we can’t fix it, we want to make a deal with God. Just do “this” for me and I will go to Church more often, pray the rosary more, whatever. As if we can bribe God to do what we want.

The truth is that God already knows what is best for us even if we do not. God wants to help us if we would only accept His help. God’s grace cannot be bought or traded – it is a gift freely given even when we don’t deserve it.

And that is the price for peace. Surrender to the will of God. Surrender completely even when it does not make sense to you; finally reaching the point where we say, “Lord, your will be done” and really mean it.

And then the grace of God will fill you more than you can ever have imagined. The blessings probably will not be gallons of wine. They may not be financial. They may not be anything that you can put in a ledger or on a scorecard.

But they will be so much more. What is peace and joy worth?

As I write this, a massive earthquake has flattened Haiti. Tens of thousands of people are dead and hundreds of thousands have lost everything. Yet there are stories of how people in the midst of this tragedy gathered in the public park to sing songs of praise and thanksgiving. How can this be?

How can people who have nothing still have peace and joy?

And more to the point – how can we gain this peace and joy in our own lives?

The answer is only in Jesus – only in Jesus.

1 comment:

  1. Phil,
    Father actually addressed the woman statement at mass. He pointed out that Jesus only uses woman twice, each time addressing Mary his mother. He is pointing out that she is the new Eve. Where Eve said no, Mary said yes.
    Ah, the abundance of God's blessings. May I always be grateful.