We just heard proclaimed, “The Wedding Feast at Cana.” I am sure we are all very familiar with this Gospel account where Jesus turned water into wine.
In Jewish culture, as in Asian and many cultures, “losing face” and thus “saving face” are very important aspects of one’s reputation and prestige in society. When a business collapses it is more than just losing the money; it is losing face. When someone in a family is found guilty of a certain crime even though he can afford to pay the fine, the more important issue it is the losing face and integrity for the person and the family.
So, in today’s Gospel event of the “Wedding Feast at Cana,” the whole grand wedding celebration was on the verge of crashing into a crisis where the bridegroom’s reputation would be totally destroyed as the wine for the guests was running out. So, to prevent the disaster from happening, Mary the Mother of Jesus intervened and asked Her Son, Jesus to do something about it.
We could reflect on different aspects of this event of the “Wedding at Cana,” but one thing is clear. Jesus our Lord and Saviour has a divine Compassion that is infinitely generous, when He encounters people who are in need. When the Wedding Feast needed more wine, Jesus filled with Compassion, turned some 150 to 180 gallons of water into the very best of wine; enough wine not only for the remaining of the celebration, but more than enough wine for ten or more wedding celebrations.
Similarly, when 5,000 men, excluding women and children were hungry, Jesus fed them all till they were satisfied; with twelve baskets full of leftovers. When Jesus was condemned to death, He not only forgave those who persecuted Him, but also those who crucified Him because they were all in need of salvation.
Jesus’ divine Compassion and infinite generosity is not only something that happened in the past. As we each have our different needs, we can be sure that Jesus will continue to reach out to each of us in all our needs and in all situations of our lives. Jesus is there protecting and providing for us with great care and love and without fail.
There is a true story of an American who was sent to Africa for missionary work. Let us call him Michael; not his real name. Michael shared his experiences with his Church community. He said, “While serving at a small field hospital in Africa, every two weeks I had to cycle through the jungle to a nearby city to buy medical supplies. This journey would take two days. I had to camp overnight at a halfway point and also had to withdraw money from a bank to buy my medical supplies. On one of these trips, when I arrived at the city, I found a man (let us call him Ricky) lying on the ground seriously wounded from a fight he had. I nursed him and then left the city.
Two weeks later, I made the same journey and took the same route. When I arrived at the city, to my surprise, Ricky whom I had treated for injuries, came up to me and said, ‘Sir, I have to confess that some of my friends and I knew that you were carrying money and had planned to rob you of your money and medicine and then kill you. But, just as we were about to pounce on you, we saw that you had 26 armed guards protecting you. So, we could not carry out what we had planned.’
At this, I told Ricky that I always travel alone and I have never had any body guards. To this, Ricky said, “Sir, I was not the only person who saw the guards; five of my other friends too saw you with the guards, and we all counted them.”
At this point of the sharing, one of Michael’s friend stood up and asked, “Michael, could you tell me the exact day this happened? When Michael told him the date and time, his friend said, “On the night of your incident in Africa, it was morning here and I was about to leave my home to play golf. For some reasons, I had a strong feeling from the Lord to pray for you. So, I gathered people I knew to pray for you; and they are all here.” He then turned to the congregation and said, “Would all those who prayed with me for Michael please stand up?” When they stood up, Michael started counting how many there were. There were exactly 26 of them; the exact number of men whom Ricky saw surrounding Michael when he had wanted to rob and kill him!
My brothers and sisters in Christ, what happened to Michael is not just a coincidence or an exaggeration. It is a true story of Jesus Protective Love. Jesus saved the bridegroom at the Wedding Feast of Cana from a disastrous outcome of ‘losing face’, by changing water into wine. This same Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit will continue to protect us from harm, provide us in all our needs, and reach out to rescue us when we are in a crisis.
During the week, we read in the Straits Times of how Isabelle Claisse a lawyer of 38 years of age had shaven her head bald to raise funds for her maid Mariza Canete’s 10-year-old son who is suffering from cancer. The hospitalisation and surgery to remove his cancerous tumour on his left shin bone would costs Sing$144,000; and with an 80% success rate. Claisse and her husband Robert have been paying for Mariza’s son’s treatment out of their own pockets for sometime, but sing$144,000 is beyond them. So, they had to turn to the public for help. Mariza had been working for them for the past six years. Robert, Claisse’s husband said, “Mariza means the world to us, and it kills me that she is going through this. Together with Mariza, Adam Reynolds too shaved his head bald to show his support. So far, they have raised $88,000.
Isabelle Claisse and Mariza Canete’s 10-year-old son (http://www.straitstimes.com)
My sisters and brothers in Christ, for most people, a maid is just a maid; employed to do house work. But, for Clarisse and Robert, Mariza is more than just a maid. Mariza is a precious person in their lives; who is in a crisis and is in need of great support. The right thing to do, as Jesus has shown us through His Life, is to help Mariza as much as they could.
What about us? When Jesus’ Compassionate Love is infinitely generous with us, a good question we should reflect on today is, “How generous are we in sharing with others the abundant blessings and gifts that we have received from Jesus? Are we as generous with others who are in need as God is to us or do we keep everything we have for ourselves and our family, and only give our leftovers, our loose change and our excess time to people in need?
My brothers and sisters in Christ, there are many “Marizas” in the world who are suffering and are in crises. When things go well with us in life, we cannot assume that we will not one day become as desperate as “Mariza.” What if this should happen to us and our loved ones and people we know reject and turn us away? How would we feel?
Furthermore, if we reflect on our lives more deeply, we will find that we are each living like “Michael” daily. Jesus is protecting us from harm and dangers, as He had protected “Michael” even though Michael was not aware of it happening. Should we not be grateful to Jesus?
My sisters and brothers in Christ, as human beings we are finite and helpless; we can only fill the jars with water. Only Jesus can change it into wine and He does so because of His divine Compassionate Love and infinite generosity. Let us, with gratitude in our hearts never take God’s Love for granted. The least we could do is to allow God to use us in different ways to reach out to the “Marizas” we know who need help. These “Marizas” could even be a member of our own family, a colleague pleading for help or some alcohol smelling person asking us to be Jesus’ compassionate love to them. Will we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to them?
And so, as I conclude, let us remember that as Christians, the way we live our lives daily is inseparable from our relationship we have with Jesus. The good that we do, the compassion that we show and the generosity that we extend to others are all directly and inseparably linked to how we treat Jesus personally.
When we have a strong faith in Jesus, we will continue to experience Him protecting and providing us for all our needs. When we find ourselves in crises like “Mariza” He will surely send good people like Clarisse and Robert to rescue us. However, more often than not, God’s Compassionate Love comes in ways that we are not even aware of, as in the case of Michael in our true story and also not forgetting the bridegroom who did not know where his “best wine” had come from. Remember, Jesus’ Love is infinitely Compassionate and generous. Will we be compassionate to others too? Are we not obliged to be more like Christ?
(Adapted from: Happiness Manufacturers, Hedwig Lewis, S.J.; pub.: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash; 2001; p43-44.)(cf. Extracts from: The Straits Times, 16 January, 2016, B13; email@example.com).
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
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