A Vessel For His Gifts

There were six stone jars in the house that day.  Four feet tall and sturdily carved from native stone, each one could hold about 30 gallons.  These were the jars that held the water used for the ritual washings in a Jewish home.  Such washings made the person clean or “kosher.”  The jars had already been used that day for just such a ritual.  There was a wedding feast and the guests had washed themselves before entering the banquet.  Now the jars sat empty and forgotten as the feast began in the lounges and courtyards of the house.  Just ordinary stone jars that had served their purpose and should have gone without further notice.   But these jars were part of a wedding feast at Cana in Galilee some two thousand years ago.  And when the host of the party unexpectedly ran out of wine, these empty jars had a role to play in history.
 
Mary and Jesus were guests at the feast.  They should have been minor characters on the bride and groom’s big day, but today we don’t even know the happy couples’ names.  This story is about Mary and Jesus and those six stone jars.  Because when Mary discovers that the wine for the party has run out, she tells her Son.  As a Jewish mom, Mary could imagine the shame and embarrassment of the host family at such a moment.  So she intercedes for them with the One Person she knew could make a difference.  Jesus listens to her, but tells her this really isn’t His problem—“My time has not yet come”(John 2-4).  Mary’s response?  She goes to the servants of the house and says, “Do whatever He tells you”(John 2-5).  She knows her Son and knows He’ll never refuse her. Mary’s life could be summed up in those five words–do whatever He tells you.  From her “yes” at the Annunication, Mary’s life is a testament of living out the will of God.  “Do whatever He tells you.”  These are the last recorded words of the Blessed Mother in Sacred Scripture.  These five words are a beautiful summary of what it means to be a follower of Christ.
 
And so Jesus then turns to the servants and tells them to “fill the jars with water” and so they filled them to the brim (John 2-7).  Put yourself in the place of one of the servants.  This man you don’t know tells you to haul gallons and gallons of water from a well and fill the ritual purification jars with it.  Again.  Why?  And Who is He to give you orders anyway?  And yet, you do what He tells you, just like His mother had said.  No argument, no questioning—you hear Him and obey.  Both Mary’s faith in her Son and the servants’ willingness to immediately obey Him set the stage for the Lord’s first miracle. 
 
The actual miracle isn’t really described in John’s Gospel–or is it?  Once the jars are filled with water, Jesus tells the servants to draw some out and take it to the headwaiter, who then remarks on what high quality wine it is.  There’s no mention of the change from water into wine at all.  One moment the jar is filled with water, and the next moment it’s fine wine.  Only the stone jars are witness to the transformation.  Only the stone jars experience that moment of miraculous re-creation.  The faith of Mary, the obedience of the servants, and the availability of the vessels allowed Jesus’ miracle to unfold.  Faith, obedience, and availability.  We often hear and read about faith and obedience, but rarely reflect on how important it is for us to make ourselves available for the unfolding miracles God has planned for us.  Yes, faith is important, and yes, obedience to God is foundational.  But if we don’t open ourselves to His will, can He use us for His great purpose?  We pray to have Mary’s faith in Jesus, that like her, our hearts and eyes might always be fixed on Christ.  We pray to be His obedient servants, that when we hear His voice we do whatever He tells us without questions or doubts.  And we pray as well to be open and useful vessels which will allow His transformative love to work the miracle of our own salvation.  There were six stone jars in the house that day.
 
“It made no earthly sense, except to show
How whatsoever love elects to bless
Brims with a sweet excess
That can without depletion, overflow.”
 
Richard Wilbur
U.S. Poet Laureate                                                      
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