I am amazed by God’s ability to drop the smallest of hints into our lives that have the potential of having a huge impact.
Today’s gospel (John 2: 1-11) and accompanying homily from my wonderful pastor, Fr. Joseph Piekarski, is a case in point. The gospel is the ever familiar Wedding Feast at Cana. I love that story, I love the fact that Jesus’ first miracle is at a wedding! His presence there not shows the importance of marriage to God but supports our Catholic teaching on marriage as a sacrament.
For me, it gives me a real rush of joy knowing that God loves marriage enough to make sure it is a visible part of Jesus’ ministry. This is hugely important; maybe more so now than ever before when marriage is coming under attack from every side. I can almost get giddy knowing that a wedding party was the site of Jesus’ first miracle. And not only a party, but making sure they had enough wine! God is returning to walk with the man and woman just as He did in the garden and He’s bringing drinks along with Him! How fun and way cool is that?!
My pastor’s homily on the subject was wonderful as usual - he was bringing up some fine points about marriage in particular and doing a great job. I, however, was a bit distracted as I was at Mass with my children but not with my husband who was away on business. My two year old was being particularly feisty and eager to climb over, under and around me, his siblings and the pews. I was starting to feel a bit self-conscious about his behavior.
I was doing my best to follow Fr. Joe when one small comment rang in my ears as if he was standing right next to me. “Remember,” he said, “our dear mother, Mary, never wants us to be embarrassed. Never. Just like she didn’t want her friends at the wedding to become embarrassed by the lack of wine. She asked her Son to help so they wouldn’t be embarrassed. Don’t forget that when you pray.”
That struck such a cord in my heart; especially as I was becoming increasingly embarrassed by Damian’s antics at my feet. Mary doesn’t want me to be embarrassed! What good news that was to hear - news I had never heard before! In all the homilies, talks and retreats I’ve heard that have discussed this miracle, that fact was never said. Or if it was, I didn’t hear it. But I heard it clearly this time and what balm it has been in just the few hours since.
Embarrassment is something I really struggle with. Despite my desire to be the center of attention I never want it if I am doing something foolish or degrading; none of us do. No one likes being embarrassed and we will go to great strides (sometimes even sinful ones) to avoid being made a fool or appearing like one. As a parent, this desire to avoid being seen as foolish extends even more so to my children. I will go to great strides to protect them from humiliation or feeling awkward.
And here, I have been assured and shown in the actions of Mary within the gospel, that she - as every good mother - feels the same way I do. She doesn’t want me to find myself in a bind and seeks through her prayers and intercessions to prevent that from happening. It is very reassuring to know that she ‘has my back’ as they say.
Now, I know that not all embarrassment can be prevented and I will surely do something this very week that will cause a red face for either myself or my children (mothers of teens often run that risk). But, more importantly, I need to differentiate between those things that are singularly embarrassing (such as slipping down the stairs) and not of real import and those that may appear to be a cause of embarrassment but are not.
For Mary (and her Son) would never ask us to do something that is deliberately embarrassing. We may think this isn’t true - as much of what we do can appear to be embarrassing. Think about this. Is it your commitment to homeschooling, a holy family life, modesty in dress and moderation in your activities or language that may sometimes make you feel a twinge of embarrassment? It can come when the stranger in the store asks, “Are they all yours?” or when the aunt keeps prodding you about “socialization”. This is especially true if we living our lives with little or no support from our family or friends.
All of we do may seem embarrassing but it is only because the world rejects it as important or worthy. But only the world thinks that way. Jesus, King of the Universe thinks what we are doing is not embarrassing at all, but truly fine, great, awesome and worthy of His grace.
So, the next time your toddler is crawling all over you at Mass or you get rolled eyes from the neighbor when you tell them your son cannot come over and watch a horror movie marathon with theirs, don’t get embarrassed. After all - what is rejected by the world is often what is best:
“The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.”
Ps. 118:22 (quoted by Jesus in Mt. 21-42)