We are all astonished at the fact that Our Lord was present at the marriage feast of Cana. It is truly wonderful that Our Lord, who practiced mortification in so heroic a degree; who gave us such an example of penitential life, should at the very outset of His public career visit a marriage feast. It was that same Jesus who had just completed His fast of forty days and nights and who afterwards said,
"Take up your cross and follow Me," who went as an invited guest to this banquet at which it is usual to find such joyfulness, where language is sometimes unrestrained, where modesty is often not observed, where sobriety and temperance in eating and drinking are not to be found.
My dear children, change your surprise into wonder; for Our Lord wished to be there so as to approve an honest marriage tie, and to show that it is a great sacrament; and at the same time to show that only that marriage is holy and pleasing to God where at least in the hearts of the assembled guests Jesus and Mary are found, and that such a marriage is under His special protection and will receive His divine blessing. It is certain that at this feast there were those who were good and simple, and that there certainly would be no disorder. Had it been one of those meetings which the worldly and rich of this world attend. Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin would not have been there.
Should any of you ever be invited to such a feast, think, before you accept the invitation, if those who ask you are good people who observe the law of God; will there be people there who are good and temperate? If you cannot decline the invitation be on your guard; keep a watch over your eyes and over your thoughts, and above all be temperate, especially in drink.
The guests were reclining at the repast; and as it was going on it was noticed that the wine was giving out. Mary soon observed it, and in order that the newly married couple should be spared the shame of making known their poverty, she turned to Our Lord and said to Him,
"They have no wine." Mary is really the Mother of providence. If she was so solicitous about the wine, how much more anxious will she be in our spiritual needs? Mary, you have a tender heart! You will surely feel for us, afflicted with such evils; you will help and console us, defend us against the infernal enemy, and you will throw your mantle over us. But if we expect to find all these qualities in Mary, we must honor and love her, and be her tender and devout children. Mary once said to a youth that was praying:
"I feel little concern in your prayers, for you keep impurity in your heart." Never offend the purest of virgins by committing an act of impurity. Be proper and decent; grow every day in devotion to her. Are you growing cold in her service? Think of her more frequently, and when you go to church pray to her; she is there near the tabernacle, for where Jesus is, there also is His Mother. If you have no devotion, and are careless about her, it seems as if you said,
"Forget me, Mother! I am going to follow the world; I will not be bothered with the thought of you in the future." And when no more graces come to you; when blindness in your faith and carelessness in practicing it has taken hold of you, you need not be surprised, for you are going away from God. Thomas a Kempis, when a child, had the habit of saying every day a prayer in honor of Mary; but by carelessness he at first forgot it and after a while never thought of it more. Mary, who on her part loved young Thomas, appeared to him one night as he dreamed that he was with some companions. The Blessed Virgin was very kind, affable even, to the young men, but when she approached Thomas, who thought he too would receive signs of love from her, she said,
" What? Do you expect a sign of love and regard from me? Have you not forgotten me? Go away! My kindnesses are not for such as you." The vision or dream was over, but it made such a great impression on the youth's mind that he began his devotions again and was careful not to omit them in the future.
Mary, having told Jesus that the wine was out. He answered:
"Woman, what is to Me and to thee? My hour is not yet come." If this answer had been given to any one of us, we surely would have despaired of having our petition granted. But Mary did not think so. She was, in fact, sure He was going to work a miracle, for she went to the servants and told them to do everything He commanded. Did Our Lord wish to seem harsh to His Mother, and not listen to her prayer? He was not harsh nor disrespectful. Immediately, though His hour had not yet come. He heard her prayer. The Lord does the same to us. Often He seems not to hear our prayers, in fact He acts as if He did not want to hear them. But He does hear them nevertheless, and gives us a great deal more than we have asked for. God does His work of kindness to man as He wants us to do our works of charity, quietly and in secret; so that the left hand may not know what the right hand does.
And still it may really be a fact that He does not hear our prayer, for the simple reason that we do not pray in the right manner. We must pray with attention; our whole soul must be on the subject of our prayer; we must pray with unlimited confidence in God's power, kindness, and willingness; at the same time always add a little prayer that God may keep you from sin, which is the greatest gift He can give you. Add this to your other petitions and your prayer will appear less selfish; God will grant you much for this consideration Read this example of long-continued prayer.
For seventeen years St. Monica prayed for the conversion of Augustine, her son. The more she prayed the deeper he seemed to fall into heresy and sin. Monica followed him everywhere with motherly love, and continued her prayers. At last she was heard but how? She obtained a great deal more than she asked for. He went to the church and was baptized by St. Ambrose. Nor was this all. He was shortly afterwards made a priest, and then a bishop. Monica asked only for his conversion, but this was too little for God, who had heard her prayer. He prepared the way for greater gifts and graces. He became the scourge of heretics, a column of the Church, a doctor teaching all nations, and a great saint. The prayer of St. Monica was well made. From this you can form a very good idea how prayers should be said.
At the wedding of Cana there were in the house six large stone water-pots. Our Lord then said to the servants: "Fill the water-pots with water,'' and they filled them to the brim.
"Take some to the master of the servers and let him taste.'' The water had been made wine at that instant. They were astonished; it was a remarkable miracle. The wine was even better than that which they had had. Our Lord worked this miracle at the prayer of the Blessed Virgin for the consolation of a poor family. For the happiness of good people
He worked His first miracle and manifested His divine power.
It was the custom in those days to give the best wine first, and when men had well drunk then that which was poorer. The world gives us pleasures, honors, and riches in our youth. But at the end of life, when we see that we have lost so much time, that great treasure which is only appreciated at death, the bad wine of sorrow and regret is served. That will be the bitter wine perhaps of repentance, perhaps of despair. But for the good Our Lord reserves at the end the wine of happiness, the memory of our sweet communions, of devotions to Mary, and of what we have suffered for Jesus. In peace we will close our eyes to the light of this world to open them to the brightness of paradise.
Be not fond of the wine of the world, which intoxicates and renders us foolish, but follow Our Lord and Saviour, who will give us the spiritual wine of divine consolation. When the world shall have left us, Jesus alone will remain with us, and that will be all that we can desire.
Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900