In the United States, a soon-to-be married couple usually registers at a major department store for the gifts they would most like to receive for their wedding. They choose the pattern of china they like, the glassware and silverware. They list small appliances and other useful items for the home they desire. Friends and relatives choose gifts for the couple from among these items, and the store keeps track of whether or not someone else has already purchased them. It is a very efficient system, not at all the way the Spirit gives gifts.
There is no predictability about how the Spirit distributes the various charisms. One might ask God for a particular gift, and it may or may not be granted. A totally unexpected gift might land in one’s lap, bringing surprise and delight—something you might never have thought to ask for, something that ends up a perfect fit! Sometimes there are unsolicited gifts that can seem like white elephants; they are tucked away until a time when they can be “re-gifted.”
In the second reading today, Paul lists a whole array of gifts the Spirit gives, each one carefully chosen for the individual for whom it is intended: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, mighty deeds, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation. We might picture the Spirit delighting in choosing a gift for each one—a gift that weds the recipient to the Holy One and impregnates each with God’s fruitful power. None of the Spirit’s gifts are meant to be kept under wraps. They are always meant to bear fruit, not only in the recipient’s life, but also in service toward others.
The wedding scene in today’s Gospel depicts Jesus as hesitant to open his Spirit-given gifts in public. He thinks the time has not yet come. But, as his mother rightly discerns, the need is urgent. Like all prophets, Jesus is reluctant and objects, just as Jeremiah protested that he was too young, and Moses avowed that he could not speak well. Jesus’ mother, however, seems to take on the role of the wedding planner. She works behind the scenes, using her gifts of insight and knowledge, setting the stage for the sign that Jesus will perform. She knows that the time has come for her son to offer his gifts publicly to bring the marriage between humanity and divinity to consummation.
Just as a wedding is only the beginning of a lifelong love affair, so the sign Jesus performs at Cana is the beginning of the many signs that revealed his glory. It is also the beginning of the disciples’ belief in Jesus, who himself is the bridegroom, as John the Baptist acknowledges (Jn 3:29). The gift of Jesus himself is one that far surpasses any other that we could have on our “wish list.”