We are all familiar with the account of Jesus performing the miracle of changing water into wine at the wedding celebration at Cana. Many of the Jews were excited about Jesus and even followed Him. However, they were primarily excited and fascinate by the different miracles that Jesus was performing for them. Many of the Jews missed the real point of Jesus’ miracles. They saw Jesus as a miracle worker and could not see that He was the Messiah, the Son of God.
How many of us today too have similar attitudes toward Jesus in coming to Mass on Sundays? Do we come solely because we have needs that we hope Jesus can fulfil, problems that He can solve or illness that He can heal? In itself to come to Jesus with our needs is good and important. But, if we see Jesus primarily as a miracle worker who is there to answer my needs, then we will easily fall into the temptations of developing a superficial “miracle-worker” relationship with Jesus. And such a relationship is never deep.
It is like having a relationship with someone because of what the person can give me. If we marry for the wrong motives of security and not love, if we work for solely for money and not serve the greater common good, if we join the priesthood and religious vocation to serve our need for self-glory and not out of our love for God, then our decisions and deeds will sooner or later create pains and problems that will destroy the peace that God wants us to have, and the love that God wants us to share in our lives.
In St John’s Gospel, when Jesus performs miracles, they are meant to be signs or prophetic symbols of who Jesus really is. Jesus changed the six jars of water, about 180 gallons of best wine. When Jesus performed the miracle, He was revealing the abundant goodness and divine generosity towards His people. Sadly, many of the Jews only enjoyed the wine and marvelled at the miracles of Jesus, but continued to be closed to the Truth that Jesus IS the Messiah who had come to transform their lives.
If we reflect on our past and present lives, we too will realise that we have been the beneficiaries of God’s abundant blessings. We will not be what we are today, if not for God’s goodness to us. The question we could ask ourselves today is, “Are we, like the Jews who enjoys the wine that Jesus give us, but then pushes aside the truth that Jesus is the Messiah, wants to become part of our lives more fully?”
The first challenge that each of us has to face daily, regardless of how deep or intimate our relationship with Jesus, is never to take Him for granted. When we are grateful to God for all the blessings He has given us, we will then in turn develop a generosity of heart that seeks to live only in His Love and Ways.
This generosity of heart to live in God’s Love and Ways is to live the Christ-like generosity that gave the wedding guests 180 gallons of best wine when there is a need. This generosity of Christ is seen in all of His ministry through the multiplication of loaves to feed the hungry people, with 12 baskets full of left over, through the catch of fish for the apostles that fill their boats to sinking point when they could not catch a single fish throughout the night, through the cure of thousands of people who came to him will all kinds of illness, through the raising of Lazarus when his siblings were in agony of having lost their brother, and most importantly the willingness of Jesus to go through His cruel humiliation and inhumane crucifixion, all because He loves us unconditionally and passionately wants to fulfil His Father’s Will for us.
There is a story of a pig lamenting his lack of popularity. He complained to the cow that people were always talking about the cow’s gentleness and kind eyes, whereas his name was used as an insult. The pig admitted that the cow gave milk and cream, but maintained that pigs gave more. “Why,” the animal complained, “we pigs give bacon and ham and bristles and people even pickle our feet. I don’t see why you cows are esteemed so much more.” The cow thought for a while and said gently, “Maybe it’s because we give while we are still living.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we all know that for a candle to give light in the dark and heat in the cold, it has to burn itself and die to itself. A candle that is not willing to die to itself is an unlighted candle that does not live the true purpose of its existence. A candle can only give light and hope to the darkness of pain around him and heat and consolation to the cold and suffering around him if he, like Christ is willing to die for the sake and good of others.
A good question that we could reflect on this weekend is, “Am I a big hearted person or a small hearted person? In this reflection on our lives, we could further ask ourselves, “Am I kind, considerate, compassionate, forgiving, selfless and life-giving to others or am I bitter, angry, envious, insecure, gossipy, selfish and self-centred in the way I live? Do people see Christ in me and are drawn to closer to God or do they keep a cautious distance from me because I cannot be trusted, because I lack integrity and sincerity of heart because in my mind I am frequently asking myself, “What is there for me?” instead of “How does God want me to love Him?”
To live the Christ-like generosity of heart does not happen only to those who have plenty to give. It is said that “you do not have to be rich to be generous. If he has the spirit of true generosity, a pauper can give like a prince.” (Corinne V. Wells). In fact, if we give only when we have plenty, we are actually giving our leftovers and unwanted excess to others. Such “giving” are certainly not the Christ-like generosity we find in Christ; Christ gave totally and unconditionally to the point of dying on the Cross in order that His Father’s Will can be fulfilled in the salvation of all peoples.
Christ’s way of giving is always total and unconditional; never half-hearted, conditional and given grudgingly. Giving generously like Christ is always one that is filled with joy and peace in one’s heart for the giving comes from our primary love for God.
St Ignatius of Loyola expresses his passionate and unconditional love for God in his “Prayer of Generosity” that we, as parishioners are familiar with. St Ignatius begins his prayer by saying, “Lord, teach me to be generous” and then continues to express all the different dimensions of such generosity and ends by reminding us that in the end all that matters in life is “save that of doing God’s Holy Will.”
And so my sisters and brothers in Christ, as I conclude, let us remind ourselves that the miracle of the wedding at Cana clearly reminds us that God’s goodness and blessings for us always comes in great abundance. But, do we take God’s goodness and generosity for granted?
A lot depends on how grateful we are to God. If we are truly grateful, then St Ignatius says that we should live Christ-like lives daily. We should as his “Prayer of Generosity” says, “Lord, teach me to serve You as You deserve”; which is to serve Him in everything and at all times to the point of death like Christ. To “give and not to count the cost” which is regardless of the pain and price we have to pay. To “fight and not to heed the wounds” which is to persevere with courage in Christ and not withdraw from the challenges we face. To “toil and not to seek for rest” which is to give back God joyfully all that we have and possess as blessings from Him. “To labour and not to seek for reward” which is to do everything in life out of love for God and not any other ulterior motives. And finally, to know and to believe that we live in these Christ-like ways all because we are fulfilling the Father’s Will.
As parishioners, we are proud to say that most of us can probably recite this “Prayer of Generosity” of St Ignatius by hard. It now remains for us to put it into practice, so that we will never take God’s Goodness and divine Generosity to us for granted .
Fr Philip Heng,S.J.
visitors since 29 January 2013