During the Wedding at Cana, the Gospel of John (2:1-11) informs us that Mary became alarmed when the wine ran short. Quickly, she turned to her son and said to Him: “They have no wine.” After hearing these words, Jesus replied: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”
As the story continues, we understand that Jesus acted upon Mary’s plea by instructing the servers to fill six stone jars with water. Shortly thereafter, Jesus performed his first public miracle by transforming those many gallons of water into choice wine. And it is noted that “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe him.”
And so, what began with a desperate plea (“They have no wine”) was quickly resolved. Truly, Mary’s concerns and God’s Will were one and the same. Mission accomplished. To which naysayers quickly respond: “But that was the Mother of God. Of course, Jesus would provide her with what was lacking. But what about us? What will He do about that which is lacking in our lives?”
This past week, an interview with a prominent U.S. senator explored potential reasons that may have led to the unspeakable violence at the Sandy Hook School in Connecticut. After a time, however, the discussion turned to an even larger question. Why has our society become so violent?
As a fifty-year old man, I can still remember growing up in a world where house doors were left unlocked for the evening, car keys remained in ignitions, and it was not that unusual to hitchhike to your nearest destination. As a college student during the 1980s, I also recall research presented to me by a Jesuit professor regarding trends in secondary education over the past century. If my memory serves me correctly, prominent teacher concerns during the 1950s involved gum chewing and skipping in the halls but not whether junior had brought a knife or gun into the classroom.
While some may claim that I am pining for an imperfect past, I believe that it is no stretch to claim that at multiple levels of our society, much is lacking. Not long ago, I explored this very topic with a close priest friend and asked him what he believes is lacking. His response contained one word: morality.
In the first chapter of his book, Spiritual Dangers of the 21st Century, Fr. Joseph M. Esper explores the Seven Deadly Sins and writes:
“Our nation’s rising tide of immorality, exploitation of the poor, economic injustices, rejection of traditional sexual morality, growing celebration of homosexuality, genetic experimentation and even the manipulation of the elements of life itself, exaltation of science and technology at the expense of human dignity, and, above all, massive assault on human life in the womb, all constitute an increasingly brazen moral rebellion and a rejection of the divine law. Every historic civilization that has traveled such a path has eventually collapsed- but we smugly assume that somehow America is exempt from such a fate. Our wealth, our military might, and our technology will, in the minds of so many of our fellow citizens, allow us to continue in our hedonistic lifestyle without worry or interruption.” (pp.8)
During the Wedding at Cana, wine was lacking. Today, as we contemplate the state of our troubled culture, there is ample evidence that serious problems exist. Indeed, much is lacking. But perhaps the answers begin with each of us. One by one, may we honestly ask what (or more appropriately, who) is lacking in our lives. In doing so, may we have the courage to be like Mary, who asked the Lord to provide that which was lacking. And with Jesus now filling us with His abundant graces, may the words of St. Augustine be our guide.
May we trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love, and the future to God’s providence.