Monday, March 03, 2008

God's Generosity

We've been studying the eighth chapter of Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth lately. It was interesting because last Thursday's reading involved both the story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well (which was the previous Sunday's Gospel) AND the story of Jesus healing the blind man at the Pool of Siloam (which was yesterday's Gospel).

One of my favorite parts from this read, though, was from an exposition on the story of the Wedding Feast of Cana. It involved the interweaving of the reality of God's generosity as evident in the superabundance of the miracle of changing water into wine and how that is the same generosity as the sacrifice on the cross...

There is another basic element of the narrative linked to this timing. Jesus says to Mary that his hour has not yet come. On an immediate level, this means that he does not simply act and decide by his own lights, but always in harmony with the Father's will and always in terms of the Father's plan. More particularly, the "hour" designates his "glorification," which brings together his Cross, his Resurrection and his presence throughout the world in word and sacrament. Jesus' hour, the hour of his "glory," begins at the moment of the Cross, and its historical setting is the moment when the Passover lambs are slaughtered - it is just then that Jesus, the true lamb, pours out his blood. His hour comes from God, but it is solidly situated in a precise historical context tied to a liturgical date - and just so it is the beginning of the new liturgy in "spirit and truth." When at this juncture Jesus speaks to Mary of his hour, he is connecting the present moment with the mystery of the Cross interpreted as his glorification. This hour is not yet come; that was the first thing that had to be said. And yet Jesus has the power to anticipate this "hour" in a mysterious sign. This stamps the miracle of Cana as an anticipation of the hour, tying the two together intrinsically.

How could we forget that this thrilling mystery of the anticipated hour continues to occur again and again? Just as at his mother's request Jesus gives a sign that anticipates his hour, and at the same time directs our gaze toward it, so too he does the same thing ever anew in the Eucharist. Here, in response to the Church's prayer, the Lord anticipates his return; he comes already now; he celebrates the marriage feast with us here and now. In so doing, he lifts us out of our own time toward the coming "hour."

We thus begin to understand the event of Cana. The sign of God is overflowing generosity. We see it in the multiplication of the loaves; we see it again and again - most of all, though, at the center of salvation history, in the fact that he lavishly spends himself for the lowly creature, man. This abundant giving is his "glory." The superabundance of Cana is therefore a sign that God's feast with humanity, his self-giving for men, has begun. The framework of this event, the wedding, thus becomes an image that points beyond itself to the messianic hour: The hour of God's marriage feast with his people has begun in the coming of Jesus. The promise of the last days enter into the Now.

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