Finding someone in time of need. There was a time in the Fourth Century when the Church needed a leader. This was a time when Church councils could include fist fights and even small riots, incredibly enough. The people of Milan needed a new bishop, but there were two factions who couldn’t agree on who that man ought to be, and they were getting restless. It was so bad that the local magistrate, the governor, a young man of great promise and wisdom, appealed to the people to reconcile their differences as good Christians. His plea was so eloquent and inspired, they immediately came to a consensus: let’s pick the governor. It didn’t matter that he was just a catechumen, that he didn’t have a lot of experience as a person of faith: he was a born leader that everyone thought they could live with.
Well, when this young man found out the decision, he did a very reasonable thing. He tried to hide; after all, this was all very premature to choose someone like him to be bishop. The only problem was he didn’t hide well enough. They found him, and persuaded him; so Ambrose of Milan was the only person in the history of the Church who was baptized, ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop on the same day. After having this great responsibility trust on him, he worked hard learning about Faith, how to be a good bishop, and how to preach. Ge turned out to be a good bishop, in fact, he is one of the doctors of the Church, and his preaching was directly responsible for the conversion of St. Augustine.
The scene in today’s Gospel reading was about a premature revelation of a hidden talent. Cana is very close to Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, and to Capernaum, where Jesus lived as an adult. It may have been a relative of Jesus and Mary, at very least it was some connected closely enough that they were there. Wedding in those days were events that took several days, and the ability of the family to display hospitality for their neighbors and extended family was a point of honor. Running out of wine was a horrible thing: a sign the family didn’t have enough foresight, and a great embarrassment. Mary may have approached Jesus on behalf of host because family honor was at stake. Of course, Mary knew who Jesus was, even though he hadn’t really begun his public ministry yet. He wasn’t ready to get going yet, even though he’d been baptized by his cousin John and called most of his disciples (who were with him that night.)
The first thing Jesus says, is along the lines of: “Gosh, Mom, do I have to?” But he recognizes that it’s time for him to intervene, and he performs his first public miracle at an ordinary wedding feast. He transforms something very ordinary, very basic to life, into something that gives the gathering new life.
God usually asks us to do something before we’re ready. How of us were ready to make a life commitment such as marriage, become a parent, take up a career, take leadership when it’s needed? On occasion, things come to us long after we’re ready, but this seems to be a rare exception. Usually we have to pick something up and do the best we can learning as we go, like St. Ambrose of Milan.
What is God calling us to do? What talents is God calling us to use? This is a question we all confront from time to time, no matter what age we are. Some of us know what we’re good at, some of us aren’t. I think that a common thing for all of us is that when somebody asks us to do something out of the ordinary, something we haven’t done before, or something we may not want to do, we look for a way out. When we’re called to leave our comfort zone, we’ll find an excuse to stay there, to stay comfortable. But we’re not called to look after our own wants or needs first. We’re called to look out for each other, to take care of each other, to offer what we have for the service of others, especially those in need.
It’s something that may make us feel unworthy, or that we don’t have what it takes to serve one another. Kind of like St. Ambrose hiding from the people who’d just elected him bishop. But God has given each one of us talents and abilities to share. And through the Eucharist he reaches out to transform us, like he transformed the water into wine, to be his presence in the world, not matter what our vocation is, no matter what we are good at or what we feel called to do.
Through this meal, we are transformed, as those people at the wedding at Cana. We see him among us, and he calls us to join his new endeavor: the Church. It’s something we’re called to be part of whether we’re ready or not.