Monday, July 21, 2008

Jesus and Jonah

I meant to post about today's Gospel (better late than never!): how today we hear Jesus claim to be "greater than Solomon" and "greater than Jonah." And John the Baptizer said that Jesus was "mightier" than he, "ranked ahead" of him, and so on. I wondered at the terms "greater" and "mightier." What did the Greek say? Well, sure enough for John the Baptizer: he was saying that the one coming after him was "stronger" than he was. But Jesus claimed to be not exactly "greater" in our sense of greatness; the word in today's Gospel is closer to our word for "full, fullness." As would only be fitting of the one "in whom all the fullness was pleased to dwell."
Solomon and Jonah were "types" of Christ; Christ himself is the fulfilment. John was not a "type" of Christ, but his predecessor and the "best man" at the wedding that is yet to come.

1 comment:

ThePapalSuitcases said...

June 28, 2008


I was at a wedding last night. There were toasts by the bridal party, by the FOTB (father of the bride). And the depth of the stories told seemed to touch the hearts of everyone in the crowd. And I woke up this morning after. On retreat seven days ago I had spent some time looking at a painting. And now I thought again of the painting in lieu of the subsequent story of the wedding feast at Cana. Cana was about the start of Jesus’ public life.

The chronology: Baptism by John. 40 days in the desert. The call of the first followers. The wedding feast at Cana. The public statement of a couple at their wedding. The witnesses. Jesus was there as a witness, as he had been for the first 30 years. Only he was with some of his new followers. It was a story found only in the Gospel of John, who was said to have cared for the mother of Jesus after his death. Maybe that was how it was he learned of the scene. Or maybe John witnessed the whole scene himself.

The struggle within a human life in a chronology of time was when to publicly proclaim love, and to act on it. It is interesting to think of the struggle within Jesus between the human and divine nature. To read this story in light of someone who knew the stories of the Torah is to recognize the connection to the past. I choose to see this defining moment of the struggle within Jesus. I think of a Jesuit friend who had joined their company once, left, and came back. To be 30-years old or younger was always a struggle.

So there was Jesus, as a witness. In his thirty years he had witnessed himself the depth of relationships that seemed to touch hearts and connect with each other, and change the world. So there was Jesus, at a wedding as a witness, like the other guests, to hear a public proclamation of vows of love to God. And then there was a human problem recognized by Mary. “They are out of wine.” It was a trivial problem. And Jesus’ response seemed to recognize a thing or two about human life. “Woman, how does your concern affect me?” At a wedding celebration, a moment of pleasure, a party, Jesus essentially be saying, “So what.” What if they were out of beer? That's what is supposed to happen at weddings. How does this affect me or you? The hour is not now.

Yet, in this very human moment, Jesus suddenly seemed to change and decided to act. Was this story about the end of the inner struggle Jesus had with issues of between his human and divine nature, in dealing with issues of timing that surely arose since he was 12-year-old? God in the stories of Genesis himself had struggled with His creation. The story of Noah had been a story of a second creation when the first creation went bad. And God’s conflict ever since seemed to be with time. When? When could he stop being a witnessed to this creation gone wrong and do something again?

So here was Mary, with the trivial problem “they are out of wine” remark. Perhaps a moment all too similar to what God in heaven heard in more than a few human prayers each moment of the day. And Jesus suddenly seemed to change his point of view. He chose no longer to be just a witness to what was happening all around him. If the Old Testament is right, if God is love, what better place to do something for the community. Now! To affect the future.

It happened at a wedding, a place where people had come to hear a public proclamation. But instead they saw and tasted a public proclamation of a new creation that involved water and wine. That wine was going to be a focus another day, and If you ever needed the professional services of a hematologist, you came to suddenly appreciate the symbolism for a people with invisible blood counts. Jesus had responded to what at first seemed the trivial moment. And from that point on, like for any couple at their wedding, the world was never quite the same.