Different Ministries but the Same Lord
Every young person dreams he will grow up to be a great figure in the world. Every senior citizen realizes that over the years he has accomplished very little. If the senior is unrealistic, he mourns the unfulfilled dream. If a realist, he thanks God for allowing him a few minor victories during his life.
Pierre Toussaint was a realist from youth to old age. He was a black slave, but he understood that God had made him black and a slave so as to work out his salvation in that social context.
Toussaint was born in Haiti in 1766 and died in New York City in 1853. He was a slave of the Berards, a French family of Haitian plantation owners; but being a house-slave rather than a field-slave, he grew up in the cultivated atmosphere of their residence.
When the French Revolution reached Haiti, the Berards fled for safety to New York City. They took with them Pierre and a few other domestic slaves. Later, M. Berard returned to Haiti to see if he could salvage his property, but death overtook him there. Pierre had meanwhile been apprenticed to a hairdresser. Now his income as a coiffeur enabled him to support the frail, brooding widow Berard for the rest of her life. On her deathbed she freed him from the bonds of slavery. At least she appreciated what he had done for her.
The leading hairdresser in “Little Old New York,” Toussaint became known and admired by his patronesses, most of whom belonged to the chief New York socialite families. He had a profound influence on these women who were most Protestant through his gentility and his Christian disposition and wisdom. A devout Catholic always, he contributed out of his prosperous income to every good charitable cause here and abroad. He also had many private charities. When he felt that impoverished white people might be uncomfortable about receiving support from a black man, he sensitively supplied their needs anonymously.
The Pastor of old St. Patrick’s Church delivered a remarkable eulogy at the funeral of this remarkable man. “There are few left among the clergy,” he said, “superior in devotion and zeal for the church and for the glory of God among laymen, none.” Pierre Toussaint certainly experienced what St. Paul would have termed a “different ministry.” But like all ministries assigned by God, Pierre’s was also “for the common good.” (1 Cor. 12:7 Today’s second reading). The cause for canonization of Pierre Toussaint was opened a few years ago. It would be a cause for great rejoicing if the Church could some day hail this black slave as St. Pierre Toussaint.
-Father Robert F. McNamara
(He was declared Venerable in 1996.)
Q563: Water changed into wine: is there more going on here than just a miracle?
There is a clear connection between the First Reading (Isaiah 62:1-5) and the Gospel (John 2:1-11), and the link is the marriage imagery used in both cases. In today’s wedding scene, the abundance of new wine provided miraculously by Jesus is a sign that points to his divinity. Abundance is a traditional symbol for God’s salvation, which Jesus himself brings, as indicated in the miracle he performed. The underlying message is that Jesus is replacing a Jewish purification ritual, because from now on cleansing from sin would take place through him, the lamb of God.
Jesus was always giving us signs of transforming abundance. He fed 5,000 hungry folks by transforming five little barley loaves into an overflowing abundance of bread; he healed and restored to wholeness countless sick folks; and he even raised Lazarus from the dead. Can there be any doubt about whether or not he can provide for all of our needs?
As my sibling Jim (also a deacon) said once, a miracle much more wonderful than the Cana miracle is repeated daily on our altars. The bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, and given to us as the Food of our souls. Jesus has ‘kept the good wine until now.’ Another wonderful transformation, which Jesus accomplishes in our souls by means of grace, occurs when our ‘human nature’ becomes a sharer in God’s divine nature. Man becomes a member of Christ, the adopted child of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit. Today Mary our Mother tells us how we can and should foster this precious transformation. She says to us as she once did to the servants at the Cana feast, ‘do whatever he tells you.’ We do what he tells us when we practice all that He teaches and commands.
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The Church sees in the Cana miracle the confirmation of the goodness of marriage between a man and a woman, and sees marriage between a man and a woman as an effective sign of Christ’s presence (CCC #1613).
He Has Kept the Best Wine to Last
In today’s reading Isaiah looks for signs of God’s full restoration of Israel as god’s people. In the Old Testament wine was often used as a sign or symbol of the gifts of God. The Book of Proverbs speaks of Lady Wisdom providing good wine for those who follow her, and the prophets often speak of good wine as a characteristic of the Messianic kingdom promised by God. John’s Gospel reflects that image by using the gift of the best wine as the first miracle of Jesus’ public life. Just as Jesus gave wine as his gift to the newlyweds, so he gives us gifts. St Paul tells us that God gives each of us different gifts so we, too, can be signs of God’s goodness and love by using our gifts for the good of others.
Lord, help us to follow Mary’s advice, to do what Jesus tells us. Help us to gain the wisdom to recognize our talents as gifts from God and use them as signs of God’s love, not for our own self-glorification.