Thursday, December 13, 2018

Lessons from the Miracle at Cana: Our Part

Another thing we can learn from John 2:1-12 is our part in manifesting Jesus’ creative power.  Ask the Holy Spirit for insight and read this scripture with particular focus on the servants’ role in this incident. (This translation is from the New Jerusalem Bible. Other translations can be found here.).

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there,2and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited.3And they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the feast had all been used, and the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.'4Jesus said, 'Woman, what do you want from me? My hour has not come yet.'5His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.'6There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons.7Jesus said to the servants, 'Fill the jars with water,' and they filled them to the brim.8Then he said to them, 'Draw some out now and take it to the president of the feast.'9They did this; the president tasted the water, and it had turned into wine. Having no idea where it came from -- though the servants who had drawn the water knew -- the president of the feast called the bridegroom10and said, 'Everyone serves good wine first and the worse wine when the guests are well wined; but you have kept the best wine till now.'

11This was the first of Jesus' signs: it was at Cana in Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.12After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, but they stayed there only a few days.

The servants had a key role in this very impactful miracle. What can we learn from their actions here?  At least five things come to mind:

1.    Do what Jesus tells you to do. This miracle happened because the servants were obedient. This is a precondition to many of Jesus’ miracles; someone had to follow His instructions before the miraculous results occurred. See  Matthew 12:13-14 & parallelMatthew 14:16-21 & parallel;Matthew 14:28-29Matthew 15:35-39 & parallel;Mark 5:35-42 & parallelLuke 5:4-7Luke 17:12-14John 21:5-6. We see the same pattern in the Hebrew scriptures. See  Joshua 3Joshua 6:1-201 Kings 17:7-16;  2 Kings 4:1-72 Kings 4:42-442 Kings 5:9-14

2.    Do what God tells you even though you don’t understand where He is going with what He asks you to do. The connection between the ablution jars and the problem at hand was probably not obvious, but the servants did what Jesus told them and miraculous results followed.  Once again, we see this same dynamic in other of Jesus’ miracles: miracles occurred because folks took actions that Jesus directed, even though those actions probably did not make much sense to them. Consider the multiplication of the fishes and loaves; the disciples were probably skeptical about the efficacy of what Jesus told them to do, but they did it, and the miraculous occurred. See Matthew 14:16-21 & parallel. We also see that dynamic in the events that set the stage for Palm Sunday/Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and Peter’s ministry: disciples were asked to take actions that probably seemed at least a little odd, but they took them and eternally significant results occurred. See Matthew 21:1-11 & parallelLuke 5:4-11.  This dynamic is also seen in the Old Testament and other parts of the New Testament. See  Joshua 3Joshua 6:1-201 Kings 17:7-162 Kings 4:42-44Acts 9:10-19.  This seemingly non-sensical pattern actually makes sense when we consider that God knows far, far, more than we do; it therefore not surprising that His directions can be several steps ahead of our understanding.  That reality underlies Proverbs 3:5-7.

3.    Realizing the benefit of God’s blessing can require serious effort. These servants had to do some real work to execute Jesus’ directions. They had to wrestle heavy stone jars. They had to fill them, which likely involved more than simply turning on a spigot. They had to transport the wine to the guests. They likely had to clean the jars out after the wedding. This is not the only time we see this pattern in Jesus’ miracles. It took real effort for Peter and his companions to reap the benefits of the miraculous catches described in Luke 5:4-7 and  John 21:5-11.This is the opposite of the dynamic described in Proverbs 19:24

4.    Do what Jesus tells you even though it involves things that are outside of your normal responsibilities. This is admittedly surmise on my part, but I suspect that the servants answered to the president of the wedding, not the guests. They nonetheless did what this guest directed, even though it took real effort, and this impactful miracle occurred. 

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5.    Do what God tells you the best of your ability, be “all in.” These servants did not do a half way job; verse 7 tells us that the filled the jars “to the brim.” That sounds a lot like the attitude described in Colossians 3:23
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Sunday, December 09, 2018

God loves & reaches out to us. Here’s how to respond (readings for Dec. 9, 2018)

Today’s readings communicate a wonderful message— God really wants loving relationship with us. They describe some of the ways He has shown that and some ways that we should respond.  

Here are my thoughts, explained as follows:
What these passages tell us about God
What these passages tell us to do
Commentary
Hyperlink

Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, read these passages prayerfully, see what He shows you—and then act on it! 

Reading 1 BAR 5:1-9
Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name. For God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship. As in today’s gospel, God calls for action on our part & responds to that action. The action He calls us to here is faith-driven hope/expectation that God loves us, manifested in our hopeful our attitude/bearing in the midst of difficulty.

Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God. Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them backto you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones. For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.The forests and every fragrant kind of tree have overshadowed Israel at God’s command; for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.  
God wants loving relationship with His people, especially those who have been separated by sin from the good He wills for them.  See Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶1.He will not forget/abandon them. He will act to restore/deliver them from conditions/situations that resulted from their sin. As is also stated in today’s gospel, God wants obstacles to that loving relationship eliminated and replaced with things that facilitate that relationship.

Responsorial Psalm PS 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6.
R. (3) The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion, we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."
The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad indeed.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the torrents in the southern desert. 
This sounds a lot likeSirach 11:12-13 & 21-22Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves
.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Reading 2 PHIL 1:4-6, 8-11
Brothers and sisters:
pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.

God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ
for the glory and praise of God.

Alleluia LK 3:4, 6
R. Alleluia, alleluia.Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths: all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 3:1-6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to Johnthe son of Zechariah in the desert. This is a very specific time frame. The Holy Spirit likely inspired this detail to verify the truth of this particular account and Luke’s gospel as a whole. That show that He really wants us to “get it.”  

John went throughout the whole region of the Jordanproclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:A voice of one crying out in the desert:Prepare the way of the Lordmake straight his paths.Every valley shall be filledand every mountain and hill shall be made low.The winding roads shall be made straight,and the rough ways made smooth,andall flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

God was proactive and activated/energized John to go to the people. God was reaching out to folks to bring them to Him, drawing the folks to Him and His loving embrace. He does the same thing towards us today through this account. 

This is how we should respond to God’s loving initiative: (1) by intentionally seek to be in relationship with & service to Him; (2) by identifying & getting rid of the things in our lives that interfere with the relationship/service; (3) by replacing them with things that facilitate that relationship/service. 

Those who do these things see God’s salvation. Others see part of that salvation reflected from/delivered by those who do these things 

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Lessons from the Miracle at Cana: Getting Past Preconceptions

John 2:1-12 illustrates another powerful truth: we can be very fruitful if we get past our preconceptions. Ask the Holy Spirit for insight, read this passage, and consider the points set out below.  (This translation is from the New Jerusalem Bible. Other translations can be found here.).

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there,2and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited.3And they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the feast had all been used, and the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.'4Jesus said, 'Woman, what do you want from me? My hour has not come yet.'5His mother said to  the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.'6There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons.7Jesus said to the servants, 'Fill the jars with water,' and they filled them to the brim.8Then he said to them, 'Draw some out now and take it to the president of the feast.'9They did this; the president tasted the water, and it had turned into wine. Having no idea where it came from -- though the servants who had drawn the water knew -- the president of the feast called the bridegroom10and said, 'Everyone serves good wine first and the worse wine when the guests are well wined; but you have kept the best wine till now.'

11This was the first of Jesus' signs: it was at Cana in Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.12After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, but they stayed there only a few days.

1.    This passage shows what can happen when we get past our preconceptions. Consider that:

A.   This wedding was in Cana. Jesus was from Nazareth, not Cana. He was therefore likely at the wedding because of His newly formed relationship with Nathaniel, a native of Cana. See John 1:43-50  (Jesus’ new relationship with Nathaniel) and John 21:2. (Nathaniel was from Cana).

B.    Nathaniel had negative preconceptions about folks from Nazareth, and strong ones at that.  John 1:46 tells us that he doubted that “anything good” could come from Nazareth.


C.    Luckily for him—and many others—he got past that, Jesus got to the wedding, and lots of folks got blessed. That started with the host; he was spared the embarrassment of running out of wine. It extended to the guests who enjoyed the wine, and judging by how much wine Jesus made, there were a lot of them. See vv. 6-9. It extended more profoundly to Nathaniel and the other disciples Jesus brought with Him. See vv. 11-12.  Their ministries in turn in turn touched thousands/millions of souls in their time and billions since then, as has the gospel account we are considering.  All that happened because Nathaniel was willing to be proven wrong.

2.    We see variations of that dynamic elsewhere in scripture:

A.   We see it in folks getting past preconceptions about other individuals. Consider Eli getting past his misconceptions about Hannah; that laid the groundwork for Samuel’s powerful ministry. See  1 Samuel 1:9-28. Consider also Ananias; he wanted nothing to do with Paul, but billions have been blessed by Paul’s work because Ananias got over that. See Acts 9:10-19.

B.    We see it in folks getting past preconceptions about themselves. Consider Moses, Gideon, and Jeremiah. None of them thought they were up to what God called them to, but many have been blessed because they got past those preconceptions.  See  Exodus 4:1-17Judges 6 & 7Jeremiah 1:4-10.

C.    We see it in folks getting past preconceptions about God’s plans.  Consider Peter’s preconceptions about where gentiles fit into God’s plan and Paul’s preconception about where God wanted the gospel preached. Billions have been blessed because Peter and Paul abandoned their misconceptions about those things. See  Acts 10Acts 16:6-10.  


D.   Scripture also addresses that dynamic on a more general level. See Proverbs 3:5-7,  Proverbs 16:1-2,  Proverbs 21:2,  and Proverbs 28:26.   See also Wisdom Principles--Rebuke & Openness to Correction.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Lessons from The Miracle at Cana: Perceiving God’s Blessings

Another thing John 2:1-12 shows us is that we often miss the full extent of God’s blessings. Read it prayerfully and see what the Holy Spirit shows you. Some points on that topic are set out below. (This version is from the New Jerusalem Bible. Other translations can be found here.)

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there,2and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited.3And they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the feast had all been used, and the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.'4Jesus said, 'Woman, what do you want from me? My hour has not come yet.'5His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.'6There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons.7Jesus said to the servants, 'Fill the jars with water,' and they filled them to the brim.8Then he said to them, 'Draw some out now and take it to the president of the feast.'9They did this; the president tasted the water, and it had turned into wine. Having no idea where it came from -- though the servants who had drawn the water knew -- the president of the feast called the bridegroom10and said, 'Everyone serves good wine first and the worse wine when the guests are well wined; but you have kept the best wine till now.'

11This was the first of Jesus' signs: it was at Cana in Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.12After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, but they stayed there only a few days. 

1.    We often fail to appreciate God’s actions when they occur. Jesus worked a great miracle here, both physically and spiritually. But hardly anyone present knew about it; verses 9-10 indicate that the host did not, and there is no indication that the guests did either.  

2.    That happens on a regular basis. God takes some action that benefits us (individually or collectively), but we do not realize the divine source of that benefit. For example, God calls a person to become a doctor, therapist, priest, scientist, engineer, etc. That person recognizes the call, its source, and obeys.  Scores of people are benefitted by his or her work (either individually or collectively), but the beneficiaries do not realize that benefit was the result of God’s action.  Those folks miss the full extent of the blessing by missing its divine source.

3.    So how do we avoid that, how do we become more perceptive of God’s actions?  One powerful way is by being intentionally thankful.  St. Paul stressed that, urging that we thank God for His blessings as we go throughout our day. See  Ephesians 5:201 Thessalonians 5:18Colossians 3:15-17.  That can be supplemented  by  a review of God’s blessings at the end of each day, as discussed  here and here.Those practices make us more aware of God’s actions in our lives. That in turn enhances the impact of His blessings and draws us closer to Him. 
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