Becoming Jars of Docility
Second Sunday of the Year. Fr Irenaeus Vincent preaches on the deeper meaning of our Lady’s command at Cana in Galilee.
My dear friends, Dominican tradition has always upheld Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as the perfect model for Christian discipleship. Mary is the perfect model because she has a radical, refreshing and consistent way of making clear the ethos necessary in approaching Jesus.
With this in mind, the recalling of the wedding feast at Cana in the Gospel of John, with Mary’s statement, ‘Do whatever he tells you’, is not just about having docility in order to secure some jars of wine to continue the wedding party. It is more about having docility even when the party is all over and done.
It is one thing to ask for docility to secure more jars of wine so that a good party may continue; it is quite another to demand it for all occasions and purposes. What is even more interesting is that the command to ‘do’ in Mary’s statement is an earnest request, advice given in our best interest.
Yet though it is in our best interest, this call for docility on all occasions and for all purposes must be a disturbing one for any modern-day Christian. For not only do we receive this call mindful of world history and the constant fight for people’s rights and freedom. But more so, we are receiving a call that is contrary to our modern-day instinct to express vehemently our ability to think, to reason and to make decisions for ourselves.
In recalling this story, however, the Gospel of John has good reason to ask for docility on all occasions and purposes, because the ‘he’ that Mary refers to in her advice – ‘Do whatever he tells you’ – is the Jesus of John’s whole Gospel. John’s Jesus is the great ‘I am’ who says: I am the bread of life, I am the light of the world, I am the door, I am the good shepherd, I am the resurrection and the life, I am the way, the truth and the life, I am the true vine.
In short, John’s Jesus is like the ‘I am’ in Exodus 3:14. He can be anything and everything we wish him to be. He can be bread and vine for those who hunger and thirst for peace in their lives. He can be a light for those who live in the darkness of sin. He can be the good shepherd leading those who are disenchanted with aspects of their Christian faith. Just you name it.
So John’s Jesus is the great ‘I am’ who can respond to our various needs. Nevertheless, just like the ‘I am’ in Exodus, this cannot be on our terms, but it must be on his terms, and one must learn to adjust to that. That is the essence of docility: learning to adjust.
When one makes the necessary adjustments, one is able to receive these benefits from the great ‘I am’. Whether it is the Exodus ‘I am’ or the ‘I am’ in the Gospel of John, it makes no difference – they are one and the same (cf. John 1:1). One just has to be prepared to listen and obey.
In other words, one must come to the ‘I am’ as a jar of docility, filled to the brim, so that the contents will last a lifetime and not just for the party and a couple months after. One may ask: If one comes as a jar of docility filled to the brim, what exactly can the ‘I am’ do with us since we are already filled? Do you want an answer? Okay!
The great ‘I am’ can use his Spirit to direct us, jars of docility, in the way that is fitting to his plan from the very beginning. That means instead of looking towards a steward to taste the contents of our jars, we will look towards the Spirit to direct us, jars of docility, so that we may have peace and a reasonable amount of happiness in our lives.