A while ago, I was sitting in Mass, listening to the priest gave his homily on the Gospel reading we’d just heard. It was the Wedding at Cana, where Jesus turns water to wine. The priest gave a decent interpretation, describing how wine represents the joy of the newlyweds, and how Jesus turns the ordinary into the joyous, and how we as Catholics are called to “Do whatever he tells us” as Mary tells the servants.
I’ll admit, during that sermon, I was only half-listening. Not because I disagreed with it, but because I was pondering something else in the Gospel story. I thought about the moment where the servants are pouring water into jars and then distributing them out to the wedding party, whereupon the water becomes wine. Nothing huge in the text, but I couldn’t help but put myself in the shoes of those servants. They don’t understand what they’re doing, but they trust that Jesus seems to know something, so they carry it out.
It reminded me of the same moment when Jesus told his disciples to feed the crowd of five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, and suddenly there was more than enough food for everyone (Matthew 14:13-21). And it reminded me of similar miracles in the Old Testament, such as when God caused manna to fall from heaven for the Israelites (Exodus 16). Not to mention, there’s a link to Jewish tradition in the story of Hanukkah, which celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of holy oil burning for eight nights instead of one.
All this led me to a single thought: Give out of your scarcity, and God gives in abundance.
I thought this was a powerful sentiment, something that the Scriptures really drive home in one story after another. At every turn, human beings see a setback or defeat, and they are tempted to give into greed, pride, fear, or apathy. But then, lo and behold, someone decides to make a meager or humble offering, and in that moment, God offers everything good through that one minor act. Whether it’s a wedding servant pouring water into a jar, or a widow donating two copper coins to the temple treasury (Luke 21:1-4), there’s a humility at work. They offer something even when they have next to nothing themselves, and God honors that sacrifice or act of service.
I also think it’s a good way for us to change how we think about the world. We see how much the world offers us in abundance, from breathable air to drinkable water to fertile land, and some of us hardly have any of that. Yet some people, in their poverty, can do more with a plot of land and their sense of community than any Silicon Valley billionaire could with charitable donations. Not that, of course, we shouldn’t ask billionaires to share their wealth, but we can recognize that every contribution matters.
To know that God recognizes all our contributions, all our offerings, whether great or small, is quite a comforting thought, if not an inspiring one. And if God can recognize the least among us, or can provide abundance out of giving someone your water jar and loaves and fishes, then why can’t we celebrate and contribute in turn? A little addition, day by day, to each small contributor could easily lead to a feast of joy here on Earth.