“Do what He tells you.”
These words from the second chapter of John’s Gospel are the instructions Mary gives to the servants at the wedding feast of Cana. Since we are moving out of the season of Christmas into Ordinary Time, I can’t imagine a better line for us to follow as we go out into the world to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. At the wedding feast of Cana, the servants followed His instructions and there were surprising results. Jesus having the best wine served last altered the normal convention of the time.
Most of us are pretty stubborn about the way we think the world should be and even the way we think God should act. It might help if we became a little more humble and less arrogant as we approach God. God’s wisdom could bring about much better results than we could even imagine if we simply cooperate with what He asks us to do. Instead of settling for the same old patterns of behavior and results borne of our own wisdom, let’s take up Jesus on His challenge to follow Him rather than trying to lead Him where we want Him to go.
The mission that Jesus gave us has rarely been fully attempted. We partially follow what He asked us to do, before backing away when it is too challenging or doesn’t sync with our understanding. We clearly hear Jesus tell us that our position toward others should be one of a servant and not as a master, yet we still seek positions of power, influence and convenience. We hear Jesus and notice in His actions that He chooses to count on the strength of love rather than the strength of the rule of the law, yet we continue to fall back on the law and forget the challenge to love everyone including our enemies. We hear Jesus teach that God’s love is unconditional and unending, yet we still think we need to earn it or we think we have the power to end it.
As we embark on Ordinary Time in the Church year, we are given this time to set up some daily and weekly practices that align ourselves more with doing it God’s way rather than our own. What would be some practices that we could begin that might look more like a servant than a master? Are there ways that we can seek out opportunities to serve those who have nothing to give us in return? Are there ways that we can choose to not only forgive those who have harmed us but seek to treat them as sisters and brothers rather than enemies? Are there ways that we can choose to be voluntarily sacrificial in the way that we live and use our resources? Are there practices that we can begin that will help us be more attentive to the word of God and smarter about the life of Jesus and what He taught us? Are some of us still not becoming familiar with the Bible and yet call ourselves Christians?
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are not to be limited simply to the Lenten season or specific days of the week. Those practices are to be a part of our ordinary life. These can be attached to our meals, to our commutes, to our daily hygiene practices, to the use of our time and energy and for sure with the use of the gifts and talents that God has entrusted to us.
This is the time of the year when we really see if our faith and practice is simply a show or if it actually converts the way we spend our days and years. I pray that we have a great Ordinary Time celebration of the Church year as we grow in our faith and practice and become more like Jesus.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.