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Wedding at Cana story shows that Jesus’ mercy must be desired

      The story of the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11) is a good study in mercy.

      Six stone jars, and each jar holds 20 to 30 gallons of water. Let’s go with 20 (easier for me to calculate that number). When the Lord changes the water into wine, you have 120 gallons of wine. You have 120 gallons of good wine, the good stuff.

      The Lord was no teetotaler.

      Rather, the Lord is generous. He didn’t skimp with the wine, and he doesn’t skimp with mercy.

      A good example is Eric Wrinkles. Eric was executed back in December 2009. The crime for which he was executed? He killed three people. The killing was brutal stuff.

      Yet, Father Tom McNally, a Holy Cross priest from the University of Notre Dame, heard Eric’s confession, gave him absolution and witnessed Eric’s execution. Several deacons from the Diocese of Gary ministered to Eric over the years

while he was on death row at the Indiana State Prison.

      From the point of view of the Catholic Church, God has mercy on Eric. Considering Eric’s crime, that’s a lot of mercy.

      Just like that was a lot of wine.

      I spoke with Eric on the morning of his execution. Our conversation was not profound. First, Eric berated me for driving a Honda. Eric was a big Ford man.

      Second, his family was present, and I didn’t want to take precious time away from Eric visiting with them.

      Eric didn’t seem distracted by his impending doom. Toward the conclusion of our 20-minute conversation, I told Eric I really didn’t know what to say. He replied that there was nothing to say. But he quickly added that when he reached the other side, he would pray for me.

      Perhaps that was why he didn’t seem distracted by his impending doom: he harbored hope.

      In the story of the Wedding at Cana, the headwaiter notes that the wine is the good stuff, and that the best wine is being served last.

      Eric, a convicted murderer, a man who admitted that he killed those people and on purpose, deserved death according to the law. But the Church believes that because Eric expressed contrition and confessed his sins, he was allowed to taste the sweetness of God’s mercy. And for a person carrying the guilt and shame to the degree that Eric did, that mercy was as abundant as that 120 gallons of fine wine.

      You and I are not murderers, but you and I sin nevertheless. God’s mercy is waiting for our contrition, our confession, and with that comes an abundance of mercy that tastes good.

      The Lord never skimps on mercy. As the Concluding Prayer to the Vigil for the Deceased reads: “You [God] are mercy itself … Forgive N. his/her sins, and grant him/her a place of happiness, light and peace.”

      All well and good. But there is a word in that story of the Wedding at Cana that is crucial, and that word is “invited.” The line reads, “Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.” (John 2:2)

      God’s mercy is indeed abundant; it is indeed sweet. But we human beings have to desire it. God is not going to impose it on us against our will. Jesus and the boys didn’t crash the wedding at Cana; they were invited. Similarly, we have to have some degree of desire for God to enter our lives.

      What I’m driving at is that I’m witnessing among some teenagers no degree of desire for God to enter their lives. Again, this is true for only some teens. But the trend seems to be growing (witness the rapid rise in the category of “Nones” in the Pew Research Center poll on religious affiliation).

      The heart of the Gospel is God’s mercy. How do we spread the Good News, if the Good News is not just ignored, but disdained?

      In the March column, I plan to explore this disdain.


      Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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