Thursday, June 9, 2011

Guest or Gifts: the Wedding Feast at Cana

Today, a friend of mine commented on Facebook about my last blog post.  She commented on her quest for spiritual peace.  I wrote back my own thoughts to her, but I've been thinking on and off today about it and when my mind focused on the Wedding Feast at Cana, it gave me the inspiration to put my thoughts together.

In his gospel, St. John details the wedding feast for us.  There was a wedding in Cana, the mother of Jesus was there, and so were Jesus and His disciples.  They ran out of wine, Mary asked her Son to do something about it, and He did.  He transformed water into wine.  It's an incredibly deep passage with about a bagillion levels of meaning, but I just want to focus on one thing:

And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now."

-John 2:9-10

The headwaiter, who almost certainly knew they were dangerously short on wine, didn't say to the bridegroom, "hey, where'd this extra wine come from?" He was very focused instead on the wine itself and its extraordinarily good quality. The bridegroom, who may or may not have been aware of the near wine shortage, did not marvel at him or wonder where this remarkably tasty wine came from, thinking, "my goodness, I bought this? Certainly not!" Perhaps the folks involved did think these things, but St. John didn't consider it important to mention. I, however, would like to know more about their reactions.

Both figures, you see, seem very focused on the gift and not so much on the Guest who gave the gift. This is a human tendency. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are unholy ingrates or anything like that. It's just that we humans aren't very good at seeing past the tips of our noses or the immediate needs at the ends of our fingertips.

If a saintly Christian, already informed of the Gospel and well-versed in our spirituality, would have been at the wedding,* I think things would have gone differently.

Say Fr. Brown, of Chestertonian fame, was bumbling around at the wedding feast, rubbing elbows with rabbis and being dismissed by everyone in attendance as a simple man from the countryside. How would he respond? I think he would demand to know who had produced this marvelous wine and how!

The thing about a really great gift is that it always comes from a really great gift-giving guest. The whole spectacle of creation must have come from an amazing Creator, one truly worthy of receiving all that I am and have, my very total self-gift, my adoration, and one who, even after receiving all of me, still would not be anywhere near repaid.

So I think one of the keys in spirituality which we so often miss is to love the God of consolations more than the consolations of God. To be sure, there's nothing wrong with loving His consolations. They are a gift. But compared to Him, they are nothing. The true peace that comes with prayer comes after we focus on God rather than His consolations. The true gifts of prayer come when we realize that God is the gift we really want, and that any other gift He gives, He may keep, so long as we have Him. He may deprive us of peace, of food, of shelter, and the companionship of friends, but so long as we have Him, we should be happy and blessed.**

When we pray, do we say, "Lord, give me your peace!" This is a noble prayer. Better still would be, "Lord, you deserve all of me, and I beg you for the grace to give it, so that I may entirely receive you."

When we pray, are we focused on the quality of our prayer, the words we choose, the feelings we have? These are noble intentions. Better still would be to forget ourselves and look at the face of God, speaking to Him openly as we do with friends, when we often speak without concern for quality of conversation, choice of words, and the feelings we receive. In good conversation, those are generally things we appreciate after the fact, as they soak deep into our souls.

When we meet Christ in the Wedding Feast, joining our souls to His in spiritual union, and making Him the guest of our interior lives, do we focus on the gifts or do we look through them to the Guest of our souls who gives them?

Please join me in trying to love God more and more for Himself.



*I am well aware that Mary was at the wedding and was as holy and thoroughly spiritual as they come. But she was in on the whole thing.

**I am not advocating that we reject His gifts or give up these things, unless, you know, you feel called to do that, as some are. We're not Jansenists. We enjoy life, food, shelter, companionship, and that's all fine, but we should not be attached to it.

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