Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cana and Being a Spiritual Superhero

That's Tintoretto's Wedding at Cana that's now the banner of my blog. The miracle at Cana is perhaps my favorite that Christ performed. It's got a self-verifying quality to it that some of the other miracles lack. That Christ would miraculously cure the sick is something we might expect when God visits Earth; it's the kind of serious thing we imagine God would do, and therefore we can imagine someone imagining he did it. But who would imagine that the first miracle God would perform would be... to refill pots of wine so that a party could continue? And who would further imagine that God would perform this miracle because his mother asked him to? The miracle has a frivolous quality to it that is everlastingly shocking, as though the miracle really belongs in the Gospel According to John Blutarsky.


We find it difficult to accept one of the obvious implications of Cana: Christ expects us to have a good time. Maybe not with Animal House level excess, but the man who thinks he's too busy being holy to have an occasional beer with the lads is probably missing something important concerning what Christ is about (this post is inspired by a recent exchange I had in the comment box at the Maverick Philosopher blog on this subject. As usual, I was an utter failure at getting anyone to see my point.) Indeed, we tend to think that being seriously religious must involve being seriously miserable. So serious, in fact, that the necessary misery involved is reason enough to dismiss the claims of Christ altogether. Perhaps Christ performed the miracle at Cana, and spent so much time at parties, just to remove the excuse of those who avoid religion with the claim that they are not cut out to be spiritual superheroes.
But whereunto shall I esteem this generation to be like? It is like to children sitting in the market place. Who crying to their companions say: We have piped to you, and you have not danced: we have lamented, and you have not mourned.  For John came neither eating nor drinking; and they say: He has a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say: Behold a man that is a glutton and a wine drinker, a friend of publicans and sinners. And wisdom is justified by her children. Matt 11:16-19.
Like most other reasons for dismissing Christ, the refusal to entertain the idea that Christ doesn't expect, in fact doesn't even want, us to try to become spiritual superheroes comes down to the sin of pride. The implication is that Christ is satisfied with spiritual mediocrities. Who wants to be mediocre? But there it is. Peter, James and John were not spiritual superheroes - especially Peter, yet he was chosen to be the primum inter pares, better to show forth the glory of God, who is content to work with mediocrities.  Nor are the saints spiritual superheroes; they are just mediocre enough to give up doing it themselves and allow God to takeover.

4 comments:

Josh said...

That's how it goes when you try to make a Chestertonian (common-sense) point to a bunch of philosophers.

David T. said...

yes... sometimes too much thinking makes the easy hard.

Anonymous said...

When I was in Spain, I had the chance to visit my then-relative-in-law who was a nun in a semi cloistered convent. I expected to meet pious, serious, and miserable people. After all, they gave up everything to join the convent. Boy, was I wrong. I was amazed to meet happy, funny, warm nuns who were filled with joy! Quite an eye opener. -M.

David T. said...

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light...