Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the June 12, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
This time of year when the wedding season goes into full swing. Time to pick colors, choose a dress, line up the tuxedoes, send out the invitations.... Itís also time to prepare the details of the wedding ceremony itself. Particularly, I urge the engaged couple to select readings from Sacred Scripture which reflect something unique about their marriage. And I do hope for some display of spiritual creativity.
More often than not, nevertheless, my hopes are dashed. The request for something unique frequently is met by a selection from the Gospel according to John. You guessed it: the wedding feast at Cana. When I ask why this particular selection was made, the response usually is: ďWell, Jesus made marriage a sacrament by going to the wedding feast there ... didnít he?Ē
The response reminds me of the time I (then a 10-year old theologian) raised this very same question with my mother. Having heard from the pulpit one Sunday that Jesus raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament by attending the wedding feast at Cana, I was puzzled. To my thinking, it would be logical then that walking also should be a sacrament since Jesus did an awful lot of it. The question took my mother aback, and after a long pause, she met my inquiry with her usual clever escape: ďItís a mystery!Ē
I remember grunting my dissatisfaction. Too deep for me, I guess. Take it on faith. Only years later did I learn in college Scripture class that the wedding feast at Cana did not deal directly with the institution as such of the Sacrament of Matrimony. (If preached correctly, however, this particular passage does make an excellent selection.)
This ďfirst of the signsĒ in Johnís Gospel has everything to do with the sacramental nature of all time, especially ordinary time. The Evangelist places Jesus at a wedding feast at the very beginning of our Lordís public ministry. The setting is really quite ordinary: a wedding to which Jesus, his mother, and his disciples have been invited. John takes advantage of the setting to pack the scene with a sense of fulfillment. To this very day, Jewish weddings are designed intentionally to reflect an awareness of expected fulfillment of Godís covenant with us. Tradition!
We should not miss the witness to Godís covenant love on display at Cana. The day of Godís graciousness and salvation is evidenced by lavish generosity and an outpouring of spirit. In this wedding environment, where the jars of water stand at the ready for the customary Jewish ceremonial washing Ė a washing which focused less on personal hygiene and more on preparation and attentiveness of the soul to the grace of God Ė Jesus begins his public witness to Godís fulfillment of the covenant. There is no longer need to wait and prepare. The time has come; God is making good on his long-time promise to save.
The changing of the water to wine reflects far more than Jesusí motherís mere sensitivity to the wine stewardís needs (better than 180 gallons!) or even the display of miraculous, divine power. In other words, Jesus is much more than a Master Wine Steward. The water-to-wine miracle manifests a pattern of Godís saving work among us in Jesus. God encounters us in the midst of our ordinary lives and changes that ordinariness into a time of grace and fulfillment.
Every wedding is a unique manifestation of Godís continuing covenant love. God is faithful ó reflected in married love in such an outstanding and lavish way ó to commitment and relationship. Because of that commitment to unconditional love, fulfillment comes in abundant generosity. In an extraordinary way John the Evangelist is saying, ďPay attention and watch Jesus. In this man who seems to be so much one of us, so ordinary, you will see the very presence of God made manifest.Ē Just read the rest of his Gospel and see.
We donít have to go to a wedding to find our ordinary lives transformed by the grace of God. It happens to us all the time, if we but celebrate life with eyes and hearts of faith. Is it not true that time and time again grace breaks into the ordinary flow of our lives and we see beyond or beneath what was once so common and ordinary? The embrace of a child, a special unexpected gift from a friend, a conversation with a colleague, a meal shared with family: In these and in hundreds of other common, daily activities, the hand of God can be seen. There is far more to our ordinary lives than meets the eye.
My mother was right. It is a mystery. Not a challenge we cannot conquer with our minds. Rather, Godís changing of our ordinary lives by the lavish gift of grace is an invitation to enter more fully and deeply into an exchange of covenant love. Therein lies the real mystery.
(Father Savelesky is the diocese's Director of Deacon Formation and pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane.)
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