Reflection for Sunday – January 17, 2016
Shiva and Shakti, the Divine Couple in Hinduism, are in their heavenly abode watching over the earth. They are touched by the challenges of human life, the complexity of human reactions and the ever-present place of suffering in the human existence. As they watch, Shakti spies a miserably poor man walking down the road. His clothes are shabby and his sandals are tied with a rope. Her heart is filled with compassion. Touched by his goodness and his struggle, Shakti turns to her divine husband and begs him to give this man some gold.
He tells her he cannot do it because the man isn’t ready to receive it. He can, however, drop a bag of gold in his path. The man walks along. Turning a bend in the road he sees something on the path. Thinking the bag of gold is a rock and fearing that he might tear his sandals even more he carefully stepped over the bag of gold and went on his way. He was not ready for the gift.
Today’s readings are about gifts, signs, wine and two very short sentences. “They have no wine. Do whatever he tells you.”
Paul was not very happy with the community in Corinth. If everything were going well he would never have written this letter to begin with. He was displeased with the way some in the community were celebrating the Lord’s Supper. They were spending more time trying to decide who was rich and who was poor, than being united in the one body of Christ.
Paul believed that the members of this community had many gifts: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, mighty deeds, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues. Paul was convinced that each Christian community had within itself enough gifts of the Spirit to make it a viable and forceful representation of the risen Christ. No matter how insignificant we might think the gifts are, unless they are used for some benefit they are absolutely useless. Paul believed the weaknesses found in the community in Corinth could be turned into strengths.
Some scholars believe that we are born with specific gifts and talents: aspects of our personality that we never learned or had to study to acquire. They’ve simply always been there. God’s Spirit has implanted them in us. How are we using our gifts and talents? Do we walk around them or step over them?
The gospel of John is known as the spiritual gospel. Unlike the other evangelists who emphasize the humanity of Jesus, John emphasizes his divinity. Throughout his gospel John does not refer to miracles as miracles. He always calls them “signs.” A sign usually leads to something else. His are always pointing to something about Jesus that is usually hidden but is at the heart of the particular miracle.
The miracle at the wedding at Cana is the first sign Jesus performs in the Gospel of John. In those days weddings were not a one-day affair. Traveling any distance was difficult so guests would usually stay for a length of time. Mary was very aware that the wine was almost gone. She wanted to spare any embarrassment for the bride and groom.
When Mary mentioned that the host was out of wine, she knew Jesus could resolve the problem. She told the servants to do whatever he told them. Jesus seemed reluctant to reveal himself. But when they set the water jars before him, Jesus revealed his love for his mother and the immense love of God for his children.
So the purification jars were filled to the brim with water. Each one held about 20 gallons and Jesus asked the servants to fill six. And it was the finest wine that came from them. It must have been the best wedding celebration ever! Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana in Galilee and revealed his glory and his disciples believed in him.
As the Divine Couple in Hinduism looks down on our world and sees the ever-present place of suffering in our world, what might they send us? The old man was not ready for their gift of gold. Would we be ready for it? How many times have we had “golden opportunities?” Are we ready for the experiences of God that we find in our path? Do we walk around them? Do we step over them? Or do we pick them up and run with them?