Men: Called to Sacrificial Giving
Let’s return to the Gospel scene of the wedding feast of Cana. Mary presented Jesus with a problem: “They have no wine.” Jesus responds: “Woman, what is this to you and to me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).
When God gave Eve to the first man, Adam called his new helpmate and bride, “Woman.” Calling her, “Woman,” Jesus identifies Mary and the Church as bride and helpmate in his redemptive mission. He asks, “Has the hour for you and me already come… the hour of my wedding feast when I will ‘drink the cup which the Father has given me’ (John 18:11), and give myself completely for my Bride by dying on the Cross?”
So, by inviting Jesus to resolve the problem at the wedding, Mary was thereby inviting him—according to Jesus’ response—to embrace the cross, “set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is contradicted (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). Jesus’ hour, is the hour to love to the end (John 13:1), of the “greater love than this no man has than to give his life for his friends” (John 15:13) in a total sacrificial gift on the cross.
Mary does not hesitate to put her faith in him. She believes that Jesus will do what is right, to “love her to the end” by “laying down his life for her,” moving Jesus to initiate the great Wedding Feast of the Lamb (cf. Revelation 21-22).
Women inspire men to sacrifice. A young woman can motivate and inspire a man to make the sacrifice to live chastely in preparation for marriage, believing that he will love her to the end and lay down his life to protect her great dignity and honor as a person, proving that he can be a faithful husband. She also inspires her man to sacrifice his fun time to develop his gifts and talents and to become the good breadwinner needed to form a family together.
Marriage is a vocation, a vocation to take up the cross daily and follow Jesus Christ in his hour of sacrifice. So, “husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). How tempting it can be for a man to come home from work and go to the kitchen, pop open a cold beer, and sit down in front of the TV… while his wife slaves away in kitchen and the kids fight with each other to get a bit of dad’s attention—if they can’t get any positive attention from him, they know how to get negative attention… But a good husband knows how to overcome his tiredness, offer his wife a hand when he comes home, play with his kids or help them with their homework… to sacrifice for his loved ones.
Women often motivate men to discern their vocation to make a total gift of self to God and then to act upon it. Many men discerned their vocation to the priesthood or to another form of celibate dedication because of a woman in their lives: a sister or aunt, a teacher, a woman in the pews… who happen to perceive God calling the young man and encouraged him to consider a celibate vocation. God has even used a man’s girlfriend, who has sensed God calling him, to encourage him to pursue God instead of her.
This is what the mother of James and John did, approaching our Lord to request, “that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus respond to James and John, “But Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?’” Are you, James and John, able to sacrifice your life with me? This is what every vocation is really all about—whether to marriage or to some celibate dedication—to die with Christ in serving the Church. Motivated by their mother’s presence, James and John replied, Possumus—“We can!” (Matthew 20:20-23).
As with Jesus, the Virgin Mary almost always plays a key role in knocking on our heart, motivating our Yes to God, “teaching us to love with a love that gives itself away.” May she move more of us to hear God’s call to the great sacrifice for love.
Yours In Christ,
Fr. John Waiss
Photo by Wolfgang Rottmann on Unsplash