When told by His Mother that the hosts of the wedding in Cana “have no wine, ” Jesus’ response is startling. “What concern is that to us?”, He asks. Often the response of Christians to others in need seems to echo this question, especially when confronted with what appears to be a lack of planning or self-initiative on the part of the needy. How often do we hear, “Well, if they hadn’t (fill in the blank) then they’d have (fill in the blank).” The inference being that had the needy person been as farsighted and self-sufficient as I am or my family is, they wouldn’t be in this mess so why should I help them now?
So Jesus today asks each of us the same question He asked His Mother, “What concern is that to you and Me?” What does it matter to me that others have no wine for their party when they obviously should have prepared for that possiblity? Is Jesus advocating here for parsimony? Is the God who says elsewhere that “Those who sow sparingly will reap sparingly” now telling us to do just that? Since we know it’s not possible for God to contradict himself, there must be another answer to that question.
And St Therese of Lisieux helps us to see the answer when she tells God, “I long to be a Saint but I know I am powerless and I implore Thee, O my God, to be Thyself my sanctity. All our good deeds are stained in Thy sight; I desire therefore to be clothed with Thine own justice and to receive from Thy love the eternal possession of Thyself.” (Story of a Soul) Therese here is acknowledging that she “has no wine”; she knows that anything we offer to God is “stained” and she therefore must rely on God’s mercy to make up for her complete lack if she is ever to become a saint. She is, in effect, following the lead of the first Saint to enter heaven, the Good Thief, who, while hanging next Jesus on Calvary, acknowledged that he was only receiving the punishment that was his due but presumed to ask the Lord to “remember” him anyway.
Human pride being what it is, we hasten to hide from our poverty. To acknowledge our lack, deficiencies and errors is painful. To acknowledge that we are able do to “nothing” on our own, as Jesus told us, is in itself beyond the ability of most people. God knows this but we usually don’t. Our pride and fear are our blinders.
To simply acknowledge our perpetual poverty, as Therese did, has two immediate beneficial effects: First, by telling Jesus the truth—that we have no wine, no capabilities, nothing without Him—we are bringing to Him the water of our faith. When He has the water of our faith to work with, He can do the rest. No problem. Second, when we allow ourselves to be filled with the wine that Jesus gives us, we realize, finally, that there’s plenty of wine for everyone. We begin to live out the Lord’s injunction, “As you have freely received, so freely give.” We are relieved of the burden of judging the worthiness of others as recipients of our beneficence because we know ourselves to be only ‘theives’ as well!
Therese tells us that, after she made her Act of Oblation to God, she received the grace to understand the precept of charity more fully. “I made it my study above all else to love God by giving all to Him; it was then that I gradually discovered the secret of His new commandment, ‘Little children, love one another as I have loved you.'” So completely did St Therese bring the ‘water’ of her poor self to her heavenly Father that not only did her love flow through her during her lifetime but it flowed since her death in 1897 to all the little souls on earth who invoke her prayers. St Therese, Pray of us!