More than kind

wedding-canaThe “Wedding at Cana” story comes from the second chapter of John, but allow me to draw your attention to the first chapter. In the beautiful prologue of John’s Gospel, we hear in John 1:14 – “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” Full of grace and truth. Now, here at Cana Jesus is drawn into the public light for all to begin to see, witness, and understand – that the fullness of grace and truth stands among us, dwelling with us in all the wonders of this life. This is what grace looks like.

We speak of grace, we pray for grace, we depend upon grace. But if someone asked, “What is grace?” what would you say? Would you say is God’s free gift? OK – a gift of what? A gift to persevere? – sure, in part and in some times. A gift to strive for holiness? That, too. A gift to love more freely and openly? Yes – and more. Grace comes in many ways and times. It is God’s love poured into us, given freely, generously, and without merit on our part.

In the Cana story, St. John is asking us to see something more about grace. And for that, let me share with you the way scripture uses wine to reveal something about God. Wine is portrayed as a sign of the great harvest, of God’s abundance, of joy and gladness and hospitality overflowing and in abundance when the grace of God showers upon Israel. It is the same imagery that scripture uses to portray the grace of the Kingdom of Heaven – wine overflowing and in abundance.

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry we find ourselves at a wedding where there is no wine. Awkward, embarrassing, but also a way in which John gives meaning to Jesus’ presence among us. The wine has run out, grace is exhausted – but now “… the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us … the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” Through Jesus the wine again flows, grace is present among us in an unbelievable, more-than-you-can-possibly-imagine, abundance – and the best wine.

This is what John wants us to see: that grace is an overflowing of joy, blessing, and the presence of God in superabundance. We need to see that in this Eucharist, we receive the one who is that superabundance of the love of God poured into our lives.

That is what John wants us to see, to understand, and to embrace – and then look into our lives. How often is our conversation about scarcity? We don’t have enough money, time, food, security, power or privilege. We dream that if we would just hit the Powerball win, we would have everything we wanted, needed, or desired. Listen to the undertone of the political discourse during this election year when it seems like candidates revel in telling us all the things that are wrong in order to win our vote by vowing to make it better. And the reason they do this is simple: we’re disposed to pay attention to scarcity and fear.

Sometimes we are so focused on scarcity or the threat of it that we hunker down in our lives. We are protective of our time and energy. We guard our children and families – all of which are good things, don’t get me wrong… But what does this say about how we view the superabundance of God’s grace in our lives?

How do we move from our propensity to think about scarcity and fixing to a posture in life that lives in the superabundance of God’s grace…. And, here is where I got stuck in preparing this homily. I had written this part by Wednesday evening … and then nada. I wanted to hold up this image in the Gospel that St. John wants us to see – the superabundance of grace in the person of Jesus Christ. Hold up to people who tend to see things as scarcity, lack, and in need of fix, a powerball win, a new government. We look at grace the same way – a fix to forgive our sins (and indeed it does that!) but there is more about grace than we can ever imagine or deserve.

After several days of musing it occurred to me that Jesus could have provided just enough wine for the celebration to continue and that would have been a kindness for the wedding couple; a kindness… but would that be grace abounding and overflowing? And maybe that was it.

Kindness is something different. We can be kind to our family, our friends, associates, random people we meet in the course of a day, someone we do not particularly like, to a homeless person, an animal, … heck even the person who just cut us off on the highway. Kindness is a good thing; a thing for that particular moment – something we can guardedly dispense and cautiously protect. The problem is that we are willing, perhaps willing to settle for being kind people.

Grace is different. Grace is a lasting thing. It elevates the one to whom you are showing grace. Think about it. Jesus did not come just to fix our sinful ways and transgressions, nor to be kind. He did both those things, but he came to raise us to a whole new level. We are no longer servants, but brothers and sisters, heirs to the kingdom. God’s grace raises us up.

Grace raises us up that we might raise up others. This is what is means to be a graced person, to live gracefully. That we are astonished, astounded, and amazed that “… the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us … the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” And that grace is God’s love for us poured into us, given freely, generously, and without merit on our part. Given in the person of Christ. Given in the Eucharist.

Given so that we might then figure out how to be more than kind; that we might pour ourselves and the superabundant love of God into our fraternities, our marriages, our families, our relationships, and more – to lift others up – as we have been lifted up in Christ. Live gracefully.


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