Today Saint Paul rejoices today in the various ways the Holy Spirit, the “Lord and Giver of Life,” works within the believing community of Christians to form many parts into one body. It is a beautiful thing that we are different, for the unique strengths and weaknesses we each bear allows us to rely on each other more and experiences the give & take of love in more concrete ways, some more common and others rare. In the Gospel today, we are invited to focus especially on the communion of man & woman, bridge & groom, which as we hear in the first reading from Isaiah, is meant to be a symbol of the relationship of God to his people. This longing of God is fulfilled in a definitive way in Christ Jesus, and will be completed in heaven, when we are united in the “Wedding Feast of the Lamb.” Here in the Gospel, where Jesus reveals himself at a wedding, we see the wine run short. This is no small situation. Since weddings were celebrations that lasted for days and would have included many relatives, running out of wine would have been both an abrupt end of the party and the public humiliation of the hosts who did not even have the ability to celebrate properly.
With this in mind, Mary runs quickly to Jesus. Think, thirty years have gone by of these two together. Joseph, it is commonly understood, must have passed away sometime after Christ had learned the trade and was able to provide for his mother. Just recently Jesus went to visit his cousin John and was baptized in the Jordan River like so many others, perhaps to a bit of confusion to Mary, who knows her son's heart more than anyone but still has no more control over him than the rest of us. And yet, because she knows Jesus so well, she comes to him.
Two times are Mary's words recorded in John's Gospel, and we hear them both. They summarize Mary's life. 1 – First, looking to her son, she says “They have no wine.” Mary is an intercessor. There is not legitimate need of ours (now her children through our baptism into Christ Jesus).
2 – Second, she turns to the workers (to all of us), and says the words of advice that she has learned through her entire life. “Do whatever he tells you.” Whatever! No not as in, whatEVER, but as in “anything and everything.” Listen. Obey. Follow. Say yes. This is Mary's advice, and she backs it up with her own life, a total yes to God forever. She has already tasted the finest wine of the Father's Providence and wants us all to enjoy the same.
But here is where we find the challenge, right in the midst of the invitation. It is not easy to have this kind of Marian openness. We question. We wonder why. The sound bytes of our culture run through our heads. The disorders of our heart turn our eyes from the love we see on the Cross and in the Eucharist. Will we respond like Mary advises? How will our response of faith in 2016 be different from all the other years?
Faith is not something we alone can muster up. Faith is a gift from God. Let us beg from Jesus like the twelve did, “Give us faith!” But we should also remember, faith is like a muscle: it must be used daily if it is to get stronger. There is no way I'm going to walk into a weight room and bench press 250lbs. I would probably find myself in a hospital. But if I did 10 push-ups a day for a month, then 30, then 50, and started benching 150lbs, 185, 215, I'd get there eventually. We have to put the gift of faith into practice every day. We need to be people of prayer. We need to “do whatever he tells us” in the small ways. Then we will be not just kinda-happy Catholics who go to Mass, we will be saints whose lives are a bright light for our dark world. Mary our Mother, pray for us to grow in faith. Amen!