By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published February 2, 2012
It seems like a long jump, to go from the readings given us during the Christmas season and the baptism of Jesus to the account of the wedding feast at Cana. But the narratives move fast and leave little, if any, room for what we are accustomed to when familiarizing ourselves with a life laid out in a biography. The Gospels are stories of faith that invite faith.
Ed Ciuba was my Scripture professor in the seminary. He has been here at the monastery a few times, and he spoke to the community on one of those visits. When I had him as a teacher in the seminary, his love for John’s Gospel made a lasting impression on me. He walked us through the seven signs as given by John, and this wedding feast is the first of them. The seven signs would lead the followers of Jesus to a gradual realization as to who he was, where he came from, where he was going. It is a beautifully written Gospel, rich in symbolism and interwoven meanings, meanings that have a vivid connection with Old Testament hopes. All was fulfilled in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, and the Gospel of John gives a splendid account of the story of the divine being wedded to the human.
He arrives, and mysteries pour forth from him.
Ed loved the Gospel and that love shone through him. He taught with passion and his love for the Gospel enabled him to make a lot of connections—both within the text and in his life. When he wrote to me this Christmas, he mentioned that he is in awe of the universe and reads as much as he can about the stars, their births, the wondrous discoveries physicists and astronomers have made as to the birth and expansion of the universe. Ed is retired now. He served for 20 years in a parish where he was well loved. His connections worked.
What he saw in the heavens and learned in the Gospels wove a pattern of goodness and wonder in his life. He sees the stars. He sees something similar shining in people.
The Gospel points beyond itself. There are stories of awe, of wonder, of miracles wherein the everyday things of life are revealed as holding sacred, revelatory things. Water is transformed into wine. The barren and near-dead religious institutions of Israel are brought to life again in the presence and power of Jesus. What is old can and will become new and life-giving. What is empty within us shall be filled to overflowing. Life will be given in abundance.
We live in a time when the secrets of the universe are being brought close, prompting scientists to map and decode the vast and distant realms of the heavens. Yet when it comes to living the mystery, we are always brought back to earth, to where we stand and love. We may look far into the reaches of the farthest galaxies, but our hearts must find their home and well-being here.
Stephen Hawking is a world-celebrated physicist. He is severely impaired by a disease that has left him nearly speechless and confined to a wheelchair. His contribution to the world has been enormous. He thinks big, big thoughts about quarks, black holes, worm tunnels, time travel, the beginning and end of all matter.
But he, too, struggles with matters of the heart.
Recently he was asked what he thought was the most mysterious thing he had come across in his life. He paused for a moment. Expecting some kind of awe-inspiring nugget about the cosmos, the interviewer was taken aback when Hawking typed one word on his computer screen: women. The mysteries hidden amongst trillions of galaxies entice Hawking as they come to him from the stars or in the blow of a kiss or the flirtatious wink of an eye. Of all the miracles that we might have heard of or hope to see, we are brought back to ourselves.
Jesus performed a miracle at Cana, and it was to foreshadow the miracle that God lives within us, changing us, transforming our lives into his. And it happens through the ordinary routines of our lives, as wondrous as the stars, as delightful as a new and wondrous wine that is given only when we thirst for it, when what we once thought to be the best is no more.