Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
of Unity Octave
“Thou hast kept
the good wine until now.”
The scriptures read at Mass today tell
us something about how we ought to pray—particularly our prayer of petition.
You know, of course, that there are four different kinds of prayer:
There is Prayer of Adoration, in which
we speak of God's greatness and goodness, and tell Him that we love Him.
There is Prayer of Thanksgiving, in
which we thank God for all the good things He has given us, and will give us in
heaven; and for the ability to bear up under the evils which me may encounter
in this world.
There is Prayer of Reparation, in which
we plead with God for the forgiveness of our sins and for the forgiveness of
those who will not pray for themselves; and for the remission of the punishment
that is due to sin even after it has been forgiven.
Finally, there is Prayer of Petition, in
which we ask God for the things that are necessary for us in the world, and for
the graces necessary to win eternal life.
It is this prayer of petition that comes
to mind in today's readings.
Saint Paul begins by telling us how we
are to behave with one another.
It would be foolish to think that God will reward our petitions if we are
unreasonable with the people around us. So Paul begins by telling us that we
are to make use of the talents we have for the common good. And then he goes on
to say that we are to “love one another with fraternal charity.” He is saying
that there ought to be a positive bond of affection between us as Christians,
for we are united (or should be!) in our common love of God. And since we are
all united in this love of God, we must all look out for one another.
That doesn't mean that we have to be
“busy-bodies,” sticking our noses into everyone else's affairs. But it does
mean a mutual concern, and attempt to anticipate each others needs; whether
those needs be spiritual or material. Certainly, we can all pray for one
another—and should—even without actually knowing each others' specific needs.
Very often in the scriptures our Lord
reinforces this idea, that we will be rewarded in proportion to the good we do
for others; that we will be forgiven our sins in proportion to the forgiveness
we have for those who offend us. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
those who trespass against us.”
And certainly, if we are looking out for
each others' well-being, God may make use of that to answer our prayers. He may
send me to help you in your need; He may send you to help me in mine.
This morning’s Gospel adds a
complementary idea to what Saint Paul is telling us. First of all, it
demonstrates the powerful ability of the Blessed Virgin Mary to win favors for
those whom she loves. At first it seems that our Lord isn’t going to do
anything about the wine shortage; they've probably been partying too long
anyway, and He hadn't planned on working any miracles until He got His public
life underway: “My hour has not yet come.”
What is instructive here is that Mary
doesn't even argue with Him. She doesn't start using any of the various
techniques that mothers have for getting their sons to do things: no guilt
trip, no “pretty please,” no “shame on you,” or any of that sort of thing. She
simply assumes that He will do what she wants, and starts giving directions to
the waiters to do what He says. She knows that He will not let her down in her
need to help those who need her help.
But this Gospel also demonstrates a
second thing. Notice that her friends, the bridal couple, didn't even have to
ask for her help, or suggest a specific thing that they needed. Because, for
those that are Mary's friends, it is enough to be in need—and she will notice.
And having noticed, she will put the need in her Son's hands, and will get
That really is a better way to pray,
anyway. It is surely a lot better than telling God how He ought to run the
universe, and what He should do for us. That is a pride-filled attitude, and
one that God often disdains. On the other hand if we simply ask Mary to “pray
for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death,” we know that she will obtain
only those things that are truly good for us, and for our eternal salvation.
Now, I suspect that we will always go
and itemize our needs when we pray—that's human nature—but, at least if we
refrain from telling Mary and Jesus what they should do, we will be rewarded
with the best possible outcome for our prayers.
Just think about what the Gospel said.
When Mary insisted that her Son see to the needs of her friends, He didn't solve
the problem by just putting a suggestion in the guests' heads that maybe they
were tired anyway and it was time for the party to be over. No, instead He made
wine from water so that all could rejoice through Mary's generosity.
And the wine wasn't just good—the wine
was the best!