I’d like to share with you my own reflections on the Wedding Feast at Cana Gospel.
Jesus… was walking by the front of heaven one day, just past the main gates, and came across his old friend, Peter. When he encountered him, he asked how he was doing.
“Not great,” offered Peter. “Frankly, I’m tired. Been doing this for thousands of years. Every day, the same thing. I ask people their name, where they’re from and what their occupation was. I check the list and then let them in. Or not. I need a break.”
Jesus considered this for a few moments and said: “Peter, take a vacation. Go away for two weeks and I’ll handle it.”
Peter was overjoyed and then skipped off on his vacation adventure.
Over time, Jesus got the hang of it. He asked people the questions and found it was ok.
One day, an old man approached the gates and started pushing on the door. Jesus rushed up to him and offered: “Good man… you need to check in with me first. What is your name, where are you from and what was your occupation?”
The old man noted: “My name is not important, I am from a place very far away and I was just an old woodworker. But… the most important thing is that I have a famous son. Everyone inside here knows him by name. He will be so happy to see me. Please let me in.”
Jesus thought to himself: this couldn’t be, could it? Then he repeated: “But I need to check the list first. Please tell me your name, location and occupation.”
The old man, eager to get inside, said: “My name doesn’t matter, I’m from a small town far from here and I was a woodworker. I made things out of wood with my hands. But my son, my son. He is very famous indeed. Everyone in this place knows exactly who he is.”
Jesus wondered. This cannot be… so he looked into the old man’s eyes and uttered: “Father?”
The old man, with a lift in his voice, returned: “Pinocchio?”
I tell you this joke not because it’s particularly funny but because I want to tell you about the person who told it to me.
Just a few weeks ago, I had a chance to go out on home visits with one of our nurses. I work within the health care industry, though am not a clinician. Occasionally, I like to go out with a member of our clinical team because it keeps my non-clinical work grounded in what they do. And it helps me stay more connected with our patients.
On this particular day, I met a number of patients, all of whom left an impression. But I’d like to tell you about Ed. Ed is the one who told me this joke. He lives with an LVAD, a left ventricular assistive device, without which he could not survive. It is a battery operated pump which he carries, along with spare batteries, in a pouch that he holds over his shoulder. If it should fail, or the battery run out, he will die. Not eventually, but immediately. It is connected to his heart via a tube that runs through his stomach. Our nurse was tending to the wound site in the stomach, performing a daily ritual that will be repeated for the rest of Ed’s life.
As I said, I’m not a clinician and frankly, I didn’t much care to watch what our nurse was doing for Ed. But I had to. Sensing my obvious discomfort, Ed started telling me jokes.
Over the course of the time with him, I was struck by his optimism. By his joy. At one point, the nurse asked him to tell me about his friend who also has an LVAD. Ed began: “Yes, I met him at the hospital a few years ago. He lives not far from here. I remember the first time I met him for lunch. We went to the Grill and Tavern downtown. I asked him to meet me there and he said he didn’t like to leave the house with the LVAD. People see it. And what if something goes wrong with it? I encouraged him to meet me there and he did. Well, he went on and on about how terrible it is to live with an LVAD. How he worried he could die at any minute if it stops pumping, how it’s embarrassing, how it is a pain in the neck to keep charged batteries all the time. I don’t know… as I listened to him, all I could think to myself was: thank God for this LVAD. I’m here eating a chicken pot pie with you on this nice sunny day because of it.”
Before we left, as I was getting ready to thank Ed for allowing me to come into his home and witness the good care provided by our nurse, I mustered up the courage to ask: “Ed, where does your optimism come from?” I wondered whether it was daily meditations, upbringing, psychological genetics…
Ed thought about it for a few seconds. During the pause I could sense his pondering.
He concluded: “I decided to be optimistic.”
Ed made the active decision that he was going to be optimistic, despite his hardship.
In the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus, prompted by his mother, officially and formally and publicly began his ministry. He turned water to wine, which was noticed by the waiters and guests. The cat was out of the bag. The work of the Son of Man had begun in earnest and there was no turning back now.
In last week’s Gospel, we considered the baptism of Jesus. Baptism is a first step, it is also a formal beginning, one that most of us here have experienced. But, for most of us in here, this was not something we did on our own. For most of us here, we were carried into a church by parents or godparents who made the decision for us. There is a stark difference between beginning our faith in this manner versus living our faith with intentionality.
So… my own personal reflection this week on the wedding feast at Cana relates to this question: How intentional am I in living out my faith?
When was the last time I forgave someone? When was the last time I forgave someone who was hard to forgive?
When was the last time I loved my enemy? When was the last time I inventoried everyone I knew and identified someone I don’t much care for and then did something, intentional, to demonstrate love for that person?
When was the last time I met the poor, in the flesh, as Pope Francis would say? Not merely cared about the poor or gave money to the poor, but met them in the flesh?
When was the last time I looked at our culture and stood up and did something about it? When was the last time I was radical, as was Jesus, and took a personal risk because my faith compelled me to do so?
There is a difference between what happens because of our baptism and what happens because of our personal Cana moment. It is the Cana that fulfills what we are called to in our baptism.
And when the day comes when I will be standing in front of those gates, I will say that my name is Rey, I was from Walpole and I worked in the health care industry. But I’ll only get to go inside when I am asked to describe what I did, with intentionality, to demonstrate that I was in fact at one time carried into a church by my godparents and baptized into this faith.
I will be asked. I hope I have a good answer.