If you’re reading this you probably didn’t win the $1.5 billion Powerball drawing this week. You may want to give thanks anyway, considering the awesome responsibility that comes with such a win. Ideally you’d want to use that sum in a way that helps you become the person you want to be as opposed to surrendering to our fallen heritage. Humanity has a long history of misapplying or ill-using God’s awesome gifts. We know what happened in Eden where our ancestors had everything they could want along with almost limitless freedom. What did they do with those blessings? They squandered them by forgetting who they were in relation to the author of their existence.
Ever since disqualifying ourselves from deserving God’s grace we’ve never quite trusted ourselves with the grace Jesus won back for us. Jesus’ own disciples had a history of flagging faith—not only faith in their own gifts, but in the abilities of their Master. Take the last line of this Sunday’s gospel reading (Jn 2:1-11) about Jesus’ first public miracle at Cana, for example. According to John’s account, this was an eye-opening event for the men Jesus surrounded himself with.
“Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.”
“Began” to believe in him. Does that mean they were students of a teacher they didn’t trust until that point? It turned out that even the miracles that followed Cana were just as astounding to these disciples. Take the time when they saw their Master walk on water. Peter wanted to meet Jesus halfway using the same method but started sinking when his doubts about his own and his master’s gifts took over.
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith,* why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
Seems like Cana didn’t convince them completely after all. And what about the time when someone begged Jesus to free his son of the demons possessing him? This was a task the disciples didn’t trust themselves with when this man approached them first. As a result of their doubt, this father threw them under the bus in front of Jesus.
“I begged your disciples to cast it out but they could not,” the man tells the Master. Jesus said in reply, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you and endure you?”
As our second reading reminds us (1 Cor 12:4-11), faith equips us with the grace to use God’s gifts in amazing ways:
“To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another, the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another, faith by the same Spirit; … But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.”
We are all richly blessed with spiritual wealth but, like Jesus’ own disciples, we often doubt our ability to use our blessings wisely—or worse, we squander them. We are like the people of Jerusalem, among whom our savior walked as one of them but was ultimately rejected. Nevertheless, forgiveness and salvation were bestowed on them, and as Isaiah says of Jerusalem in our first reading (Is 62:1-5), they would be vindicated and would stand as a model of the unrelenting nature of God’s grace.
“Nations shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory; you shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the LORD. You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD, a royal diadem held by your God. No more shall people call you “Forsaken,” or your land “Desolate.”
The outcome of a lottery is governed by chance—no better than a crapshoot. God gave humanity the priceless gift of His grace and changed our name back from Forsaken and Desolate to “His.” Vindication is ours. Let’s not squander that win.