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I thought I knew the story of the wedding at Cana until our our minister preached on it last weekend. Here’s a quick review for those of us who need it.

Jesus and his disciples and Mary were at a wedding. When the wine started to run low, Mary told Jesus to do something about it. His response? “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” But she ignored him and told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do. Jesus told the steward to fill 6 jars that each hold 20 to 30 gallons of water. Then Jesus told him to draw out a serving. The master of the feast tried the wine.

Yep, this is when Jesus turned the water into wine. You can read it here in John. All of us who know teens are shaking our heads. We all know a young man who sounds like this when frustrated. Woman! What are you bugging me about? And we can picture him rolling his eyes before stepping up to help. But here’s what I didn’t know about the Wedding at Cana.

When we read this story as children, the Biblical translation had the steward saying, “You have kept the best wine until last.” But people have continued to study Biblical languages. We now know that the steward said, “You have kept the best wine until now.”

Think about that for a minute. Where we are, when we are, Christ has saved the best for now. That’s a pretty powerful message for 2022. It isn’t a promise that everything will be perfect. After all, things that involve people tend to be, as Ruth would say, wonky.

But is there anything better than that first mug of coffee? Or the time you spent in the backyard throwing a tennis ball for your dog to bring back? Yesterday we had the most glorious sunshine in spite of the fact that it was 8 degrees F. The cat rubbing around your ankles. The stranger who holds open the door for you.

Like Lori said, most of us feel like we are in the midst of a Balancing Act. We’ve had quite enough. The guests at that wedding didn’t do anything do earn that wonderful wine. They were simply there. Take some time to day to simply be in God’s presence. Breathe in. Sip your tea. God is ready wherever you are.


Unless you live under a rock, you know that Alex Trebek, long-time host of “Jeopardy” has pancreatic cancer. This is a devastating diagnosis. However, Mr. Trebek recently announced that he is in near remission, and credits this miraculous turn-about to the power of prayer.

Which is wonderful. I was one of the many people who prayed for him, after all. The only problem with stories like this is that they cause us to question the nature of miracles. In my lifetime, I’ve also prayed for many other people with cancer, including some who had the very same diagnosis as Mr. Trebek. They died anyway. Why didn’t my prayers elicit a miracle for them? Did I not pray enough? Or maybe it comes down to numbers: A celebrity like Alex Trebek is bound to get more prayers than someone like my father, a quiet Korean War vet and former farm boy from Wisconsin. But since when does God favor the popular crowd? It’s a conundrum.

It is not grace withheld,
nor grace deferred.
It is only this: The miracle
you held in your heart
changed shape, became
a color beyond the spectrum your
eye can see. It came as you bid.
That is an assurity. But:
it did not look familiar,
dressed as it was in the stuff
of your fears. Still.
It was perfect.
And you will know it —
or not — one day.

You have to have faith.  Faith that what you are doing matters.  Faith that you will find what you need.  Faith that God will provide.

Otherwise?  Why even try?

I always think of this when I hear the story of the Good Samaritan.

Before the Samaritan came along, a priest and a Levite walked by the beaten man.  They walked on by because if he died, they would be unclean.  They would have to pay fees and make sacrifices to once again become clean.  Sure, he might be okay but they didn’t have the Faith needed to take the chance.

The Samaritan? He wasn’t the same culture as the victim.  If the Samaritan tried to help and the man died, his family would probably take revenge on the Samaritan.  After all, wasn’t he the last person seen with the victim?  The Samaritan could take shelter in a city of refuge, but his family would still be at risk, because the victim’s family could seek revenge against a son, brother or nephew. This was much bigger than a simple risk of his ability to perform temple rituals. This could be a matter of life and death.

But it was the right thing to do and the Samaritan helped.  He got involved.  He had faith that it would turn out okay and he did something big.

With faith, we can all do great things.


The weather is mocking me: After three days of rain, only the most tentative flicker of sunshine. It’s enough to make a person lose hope. And I have lost it, especially of late. I’ve lost hope in the Sisterhood (you know, that wild idea that women might work together for our own good), in men, in the Church, and in the bright, shiny promise of Democracy. I’ve lost hope that somehow we’re going to pull it together before the effects of global warming smack us in the face with a cataclysmic shout of “too late!”

But it’s okay. Because at the bottom of my Pandora’s box remains one thing — faith in God. And because of this, I can’t lose hope entirely. I have to still believe in the Sisterhood, in men, in the Church, in the bright, shiny promise of Democracy. I even have to believe that maybe we’ll save the planet before it’s too late. But only because I believe in God.

I don’t have to believe that human beings are capable of being fair or loving or vigilant, because God demonstrates over and over that God can work a miracle through the unlikeliest of people. Most saints are saints despite themselves. They are saints because God worked through them. And God can work through any of us.

So while I might be experiencing a dark night of the soul, there’s still some sunlight left in my inventory. And that is the idea of God’s infinite possibility. If you can believe in that, you can never lose hope. Good thing, too, because a life without hope is no life at all.

Yesterday was a crummy day. Fortunately, Tuesday was wonderful — chock-full of blessings and outright miracles. That’s the way life is sometimes. Pondering Tuesday’s beneficence, I keep thinking, “I didn’t deserve all that.” But isn’t that the point? Grace is unearned. God bestows it freely, even lavishly. All this generosity got me thinking about God’s love for each of us. It’s a little overwhelming. And there is no “why” or “because” about it. It just is. Here are some loose, unrefined thoughts on the matter:

Someone has a crush on you and it’s God.
Someone gave you a candy heart that said
LOVE YOU and meant it and it was God.
Someone sends ridiculous declarations,
love songs on the radio,
twenty dozen long-stemmed roses,
chocolates hand-dipped by blind monks,
a stuffed plush bear the size of a Volkswagen.
And it’s God.
God says you get a car and you and you and you
and they’re all dream cars even if yours is a Mercedes
and mine is a Porsche.
Someone swoons over you, knees knocking, heart
ticking quick as a metronome at full speed,
chest so tight breath barely breaks,
and it’s God.
To God, you are marvelous. Amazing. A wonder.
A sonnet with legs and arms and a face.
God will never get over you.
You might as well sign for the package;
take it in your hands. Guess its worth.
You will always come up short.

“If you give God a hair, he will give you a mountain,” said my friend on the phone. She’d just finished telling me about something that happened to her on a recent trip. She’d been arguing with her sister, and decided to choose peace instead. She swallowed her anger and let tolerance prevail. Then she walked to a local church where what I can only construe as a miracle occurred. I won’t describe it because I don’t want to water it down — or subject it to skepticism, which, Good Readers, despite your best intentions, you’d be destined to color it with. I myself briefly fought against my own tendency toward eye-rolling incredulity. But I believe my friend. (And for all of you in the “pictures or it didn’t happen” crowd, there are pictures. It happened.)

But the miracle isn’t the point here. It’s about how generously God loves us. My friend made a tiny step away from her usual pattern of combativeness, and was lavishly rewarded with a life-changing moment. Imagine that! Imagine what might happen if you were to change in a larger way!

We all have things we’d like to change about ourselves. I’m not talking about the size of your waist or your wallet. I’m talking about your soul. We all have flaws we need to work on. But just like proud parents encouraging a baby to take his first steps, God encourages us in our journeys, too. When we wobble, he provides support. And when we take a tenuous step, he cheers. If we happen to do the unimaginable — traveling, say, from a distant land of spiritual rejection, squandered potential and sin and back into God’s arms — that’s when the real celebration occurs. Fatted calf? Check. Magnificent robe, rings on every finger, and a party for all our friends? Check, check, and check again.

Don’t believe me? I understand. It’s easier to live in skepticism than to make the improbable journey to belief. There’s a lot more evidence for skepticism than there is for belief. Just go on-line for ten minutes. You’ll get your fill — and then some — of negativity. But if you want something better, something different, all it takes is the slightest movement. A single hair. You’ll be surprised at the mountain you receive in return.

When I was nine, my best friend Teresa and I decided to count to one million. My family had recently moved, so we kept track of our progress through breathless play dates and eager letters: “I’m at 21,345!” “I’m at 33,590!” I knew Teresa would never lie about her progress — she was scrupulously honest, and I took care to track my count by making hatch marks in a spiral notebook, one mark for every hundred. We never got much further than one hundred thousand; I suppose constantly counting in one’s spare time became tedious, especially as I got acclimated to my new school. It was with misgiving that we decided, jointly, to quit.

Some things are practically impossible. Even if one approaches a task with great enthusiasm, the uphill climb may prove insurmountable. And then there are miracles, those wondrous earth-movers that can propel you from the “low thousands” straight up to a metaphorical million in one fell swoop.

I believe in miracles. (As I’ve said dozens of times, anyone with asthma must believe in them. How else to explain the panic of drowning, drowning, drowning, and suddenly emerging, porpoise-like, back to breath?) But miracles don’t always turn out the way we want them to. They are chimeric little things, insisting on their own mystery, only sometimes conforming to our wishes.

This does not make them any less miracles. I feel certain that miracles are softly showering us all the time; we simply don’t notice. We’re too busy under our umbrellas of busy-ness and rote activity (work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep) to take heed of the plethora of wonders landing like roses at the feet of an operatic diva.

Today, I want you to pay attention. Look up from your computer, your plate, your rake and see them: See the miracle of changing leaves, of toiling insects (do you suppose they recognize the miracles that are us, looking down at them?), of the gift of breath, warmth, love. Take heed of miracles. There are millions of them out there, right now, waiting for you.

So I was at the dentist’s office, getting my teeth cleaned (isn’t that how all great stories start?), when the dental hygienist told me about something strange that had happened to her. It occurred some years ago, back when her four boys were all teenagers — and acting like it. On a particularly brutal day, when typical teen moodiness, aggression and hijinks seemed at an all-time high, my dental hygienist decided she’d had enough. While driving down Douglas Avenue, she paused in front of Blessed Sacrament Church. I’ll let her tell the rest: “Suddenly, a dove, a white dove, appeared in front of my window, silhouetted by the sun, with light all around it. It flew along next to me for several blocks, and I was overcome with a feeling of peace.”

I was dazzled by this story, not just because I’ve personally driven down that stretch of Douglas Avenue 10,000 times since we moved to this town with nothing appearing in front of me except jay-walking Catholics, but by the almost cinematic perfection of it. A white dove surrounded by dazzling light? Check. A miraculous change of attitude? Double check.

I found myself envious of this woman’s experience, envious of such a dramatic show of God’s love and concern for all of us. Most of us don’t get gifts like this. But we do experience God’s love. We just see it in more subtle ways: In the beauty of nature, in a smile from a stranger. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to get a dramatic dove story — just once in our lives?

Of course, I wouldn’t know a dove from an albino pigeon. And if something — even the Holy Spirit — suddenly appeared in front of my windshield, my reaction would more likely be a shriek than anything else. Maybe that’s why I don’t get dove-moments.

Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking about miracles. Why do they happen? How do they happen? I can’t pretend to know. But I can muse on it. So here goes.


You can shout, stomp your feet.
Or hone yourself to holiness,
thin and translucent as a paper saint.
Sometimes it will come.

Other times, it arrives,
like a perfect snowflake
on the collar of your coat,

You will flick it away.
Or you will let it melt on your fingertip,
watching solid turn to liquid,
its own little miracle,
and you will know:
Sometimes for a moment
we are each extraordinary.

I grew up three doors down from a girl named Geeter (a play on her given name, Brigitta). I didn’t know her well — she was a public school girl, and I went to Catholic school — but I certainly knew of her. In some circles, Geeter was famous.

Sometimes my sister and I would walk over to the local public school to avail ourselves of their playground (not during school hours, of course). One day, as we were monkeying around on the monkey bars, a solemn-faced girl with thick glasses interrupted our play. Geeter, she explained, could do any of the tricks we were attempting. In fact, she said, “Geeter can do anything.”

I can’t vouch for the veracity of that statement; the only thing I knew for sure that Geeter could do was make fun of me and throw rocks at my head. Still, that anonymous little girl’s faith in her idol has stuck with me all these years. She really believed that Geeter could do anything.

I’ll be the first to admit my inadequacies. There are plenty of times when I look at a situation and think, “I can’t do that.” But it behooves me to remember one thing: God can. God really can do anything. And that’s not just childish idol worship; it’s the bona fide truth. I’ve seen it time and again. I run up against what I think is an insurmountable challenge, and somehow, God walks me through it. It is nothing short of miraculous.

Yes, miracles happen daily, and often at our lowest moments. That’s how they work. So the next time you’re staring up at the metaphoric mountain in your path, just remember: Even if you can’t, God can. And does. So breathe, relax and let God take over. It really is that easy.

If that little girl could believe it of a kid named Geeter, how can we not believe it of God?




Have a Mary Little Christmas

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