We meet the 1st and 3rd Thursdays at St. Gertrude's Ministry Center
(6214 N. Glenwood), beginning at 8:00 p.m. Folks are welcome to join us at anytime.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Wedding at Cana: Joyful Resistance

(I offered this reflection during Sunday Morning's (1/17) interfaith liturgy with Witness Against Torture during the Fast and Vigil for Justice)

We gather this morning, as a community mindful of the gift and privilege to be together in our fast and prayer. We are mindful of the reason of our gathering - to witness against the dark reality that keeps our brothers at Guantanamo from joining this circle. They are not welcome here, we are told, that they are a threat to our security and freedom. And yet, in the silence of our fast and the solemnity of our witness we know, somewhere deep in our beings, that this is not true. All are welcome in this circle.

In today's readings, the Gospel of John tells us the story of Jesus' first miracle: the turning of water into wine at the Wedding in Cana. Allow me to share my own thoughts on what we can draw from Jesus and his presence and actions in Cana. The story parallels the synoptic gospels' parable of old wine being poured into new wine skins. Most scholars read this to be Jesus announcing a new paradigm - what that paradigm exactly looks like has been at the heart of Christianity, but not without contention. In announcing a new paradigm (new wine in the stone jars which held water for the Jewish purification rites), we are being told that our old ways of being will not or cannot conform to the new needs and demands of our context. Our old experiences do not suffice for understanding our new reality. A new way of thinking, seeing, being is demanded of us. So it is here with Jesus.

In John' Gospel, before Cana, Jesus is not yet the public figure who later garners large crowds of followers. At the wedding, when the wine has run out, Jesus' mother Mary approaches her son telling him so. His response is a troubling one to comprehend: "Woman, why do you bother me? My time has not yet come." Why such a callous response, especially to one's mother? It is clear that Jesus certainly has felt a call that, in due time, will reveal who he is - or what it is he is to do. But this time is not now. Maybe, in the depths of his own human soul, there resided some fear for what the future might hold in store for him. Perhaps the fear that so many of the Hebrew Prophets suffered, almost to the point of inaction and insanity gripped Jesus as well. How many times have we failed to do the right thing - out of a sense of the false self, the deceived ego - by justifying it to ourselves (or others telling us) "it is not the right time." How often we have heard that from the politicians and pundits.

Whatever the reason, for Mary felt the time for Jesus to publicly act was now. "Do whatever he tells you," She tells the head servers to defer to Jesus by "doing whatever He tells you." No doubt Mary's persistence plays a role in Jesus' first public miracle. Imagine, for a moment, had Jesus' mother not been there and played the role she did. Would Jesus have acted like he did? If Jesus is in anyway like us, and he most surely is, many of us find it easier to do the right thing when the are others with us. Jesus needed someone to give him that final push into his public ministry. It's a funny thing, the man Christians call the Son of God and the man Muslim know to be a great prophet needed his mother to tell him what to do. Some things never change. Without his mother, without someone else, without community creating the opportunity for acting his way into being - would Jesus still be saying "his time has not yet come?"

And finally, the scene of this miracle: A wedding, a celebration. The wedding is on the brink of turning sour without the wine. One cannot underestimate the tragic consequences of such an event. It would bring great shame to the hosts, the bridegroom and family, if the guests are not adequately served. But the celebration is saved from such consequences. I'm struck by two things about the wedding as a site for Jesus' announcement of himself and message via the water into wine. The first is about weddings. They mark the beginning of a new life, the two becoming one. When people are married, their lives fundamentally change. It becomes a new way of being, thinking, of doing. It is a way of intimate love for another and the deepest concern and care for another's well-being. This is the message of Jesus. His time on earth, if nothing else, can be said to be one of teaching and living - even up to his death - a radical dependence on love for God and others. How appropriate for such public ministry to begin at a wedding.

The second thought from this scene of celebration has very much to do with us today. At a time when even weddings are under attack, quite literally celebration are under the eye and fire of drones and bombing - a time of much sadness and tragedy - our sisters and brothers, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, still find the courage to risk such celebration!

As we continue our resistance, mindful of the courage and joy in the midst of tremendous, unspeakable suffering, how do we recognize that our time has come to announce a new way of being - a marriage between enemies and friends becoming one common humanity. Our announcement of a "new society in the shell of the old," as Peter Maurin fondly reiterated, is one that is so old and simple that it is in fact new. It is a world without torture. It is a world of radical love and service and resistance to injustice. It is a world where the creative power of imagination and nonviolence calls us oneness. So, dear friends, I am left wondering: How do we announce such a profound paradigm, rooted in love and compassion - knowing the fate of the prophets before us and the cross that looms in the distance - and witness against torture in a celebratory way?

1 comment:

  1. Two points especially strike me from the text. First, I admire the your interpretation of Jesus' rebuke to his mother "my time has not yet come" as a challenge to our false self's tendency to justify inaction. I would like to see you develop this christological connection to nonviolence further.

    Second, would you unpack the quote of Peter Maurin? It seems that the peacemakers creation of a "new society in the shell of the old" not only inverts the motif of pouring old wine into new wineskins, but also reinterprets the mystery of water into wine. You have put your finger on something that seems theologically potent!