Our Lenten Offerings Are Like Water at Cana
“Christ transforms the ‘water’ of our spiritual poverty into the generous ‘wine’ of renewal and commitment, as he did at Cana.” —Pope St. John Paul II
It’s that time of year again when everyone starts asking us as Catholics, “What did you give up for Lent? What are you doing for Lent this year?” Perhaps you are giving up sweets or fasting every day or are making an intentional prayer time a priority. Or maybe you are doing the long Exodus 90 fast, like my husband, and are well into your weeks of sacrificing. Wherever you are in your Lenten offerings, the Lord wants to help you grow spiritually through them.
When my husband started his 90 days of pre-Easter sacrificing with his Exodus group, it was only a couple of weeks after Epiphany. Our Gospel reading for the Traditional Latin Mass that weekend had been from John 2, detailing the wedding at Cana when Jesus turned water into wine. As I prayed with the Gospel I saw how all of our sacrifices spiritual practices, whether in Lent or otherwise, are nothing without the transformative power of grace. They are like offerings of water that Jesus then transform into the wine of new life. There are several key phrases of the Gospel on the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11) that lay out how we are to approach our Lenten offerings.
The first is the Blessed Mother seeing our need and telling her Son, “They have no wine” (John 2:3). Where in our lives do we “have no wine?” When I prayed about what I was going to do for Lent this year, I looked at the ways I fail in my daily life of being faithful to him. I see my weakness and how I have failed on my own to free myself from the same sins I have always fallen into. All of my efforts to free myself fail. I want my Lenten sacrifices to help me grow in holiness, yet I have no wine when I attempt to do this alone.
When I turn to the Blessed Mother for help, she says to me, “Do whatever he tells you (John 2:5).” These words of the Blessed Mother instruct us in how we should live. The best part of me in my best moments desperately wants to follow the Lord’s commandments. It is not too hard when it is comfortable and convenient to do. Yet, I sometimes feels like and observer looking on as I go through the motions of the same bad habits, knowing I should stop and lacking the will power to interfere. I have formed my conscience well — I know what is right and wrong and don’t face major moral dilemmas in my daily life. For example, I should not use my phone as a distraction. I should parent my children with love. I should be present to them when they need me and speak to me. I should stay on task in my work. I should seek to be aware of the Lord’s presence in all that I do. But I do not have the virtues of perseverance and charity as fully as I should. What I have on my own is futile.
The Lord sees my complete weakness and says to me, “Fill the jars with water” (John 2:7). Our Lenten offerings are doing just that. Whatever it is I discern to be the water he is calling me to give, even if it is the same thing over again. He just wants me to fill the jars with water and let him take care of the rest. The Lord does not expect wine from me — just my devotion to him, my love for my husband, my care for my children, my commitment to my writing. All of these, as well as any extra Lenten offerings, are the water I pour into the jars.
“Now draw some out (John 2:8),” the Lord says of the wine to the chief steward. When I look at my life where I have offered the Lord the water of my life and simply done the things he asked, I find that it has been transformed by him into “good wine.” My acts of love have become full of grace. They have been redeemed. His grace, when I offer him the water of my life, permeates into my whole life. Seeing how he has worked with my water offerings up to this point, I can trust that he will continue to transform my life.
The Lord says to all of us, the same words he spoke to St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). We are weak without him, but his grace transforms it all. This Lent, let us remember that all we are doing and offering the Lord is simply filling the jars with water. Whatever we take on in our prayer, fasting and almsgiving means nothing if we do not give it to the Lord. He changes the water of our offering into the wine of a grace filled life. All he asks of us is to do what we can with our own efforts and let him take care of the rest.