Perfect Detachment: Reflections on the Wedding at Cana

Have you ever told a child they’ll go to the park in the afternoon, only to find, when 2:00 rolls around, that it’s raining, or you’re stuck in traffic, or need to make an unexpected errand?

And suddenly you’re dealing with a meltdown messier than an ice cream cone on a scorching day.

Wedding at Cana 

The Catechism tells us not to put too much store in future events.

“a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it.” 1 

And from the Gospel of John, it’s clear Jesus Himself didn’t entirely understand how events were to transpire in his own life. 

In the story of the wedding feast at Cana, Mary approaches Jesus to let him know they’ve run out of wine.  In response, He says:

“Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”  John 2:4

Yet we know how the story turns out: Mary tells the servants to do whatever He tells them, and Jesus turns water into wine: a superior wine in fact to the one the guests had been drinking.  John cites this as the beginning of Jesus’ signs. (cf. John 2:11)

Jesus clearly had some notion about when his public ministery would begin.  Had He decided this for Himself?  Or received some assurance in prayer?  

We can’t know entirely what He meant by this statement, but that He didn’t intend to making a spectacle at the wedding. 

Yet He’s able to reassess his plans in the space of an instant and bring about this wondrous miracle. 

What About Me?

If Jesus wasn’t granted perfect clarity around the events of his life, it’s safe to assume (indeed we all well know) that we aren’t either. 

Or, to be more precise, we can also, like Jesus, anticipate that events will transpire in our life quite differently than we plan. 

Perhaps we’re talented, yet stuck in an uninspiring job, or have been passed over for a deserved promotion.  Or maybe we anticipated marrying and having a family, but instead have lived our adulthood single.  Or feel we entered into a perfect marriage only to find it now ending in divorce. 

If only Jesus could turn the bland waters of our disappointment into wonderful fruity wine! 

And speaking of weddings—remember that character Miss Havisham from Dicken’s Great Expectations?  After being jilted at the alter, she wandered around her ruined mansion for decades, dressed in her white wedding gown.

Although she’s a bit exaggerated, many of us probably relate to her disappointment and disillusionment.  And we creep around in a wedding dress of unrealized hopes and expectations, unable or unwilling to marry our expectations with the reality of our present circumstances. 

Jesus, in this Gospel story, demonstrates a more excellent way: one of simply accepting circumstances as they play out in the present moment, regardless of what we’d hoped for or planned.  And a readiness to adapt to what seems most appropriate to the situation at hand. 

Ok, But How Did He Do It?

It’s very easy to watch Jesus behave with perfect detachment.  But as for emulating—that’s another story.  As for me, I’m way more likely to behave like a toddler having a meltdown when things don't play out as I think they should, or as I think I deserve.  

In the sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us “Where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.” (Matthew 6:21)

In other words, if we're thrown off center or cripplingly disappointed over unmet expectations, it may reveal that we have placed our treasure in something other than God alone. 

Miss Havisham, clearly, had an inordinate attachment to marriage. And perhaps we, too, have similar attachments: to a career, reputation, respectability, expectations around family, or simply to having control over our own time and schedules.

Jesus, rather, said that He seeks only to do “the will of the one who sent me.” (John 5:30).  And that is where he found His center, His peace.  So He wasn’t inordinately shaken or discombobulated when his mother tells him to perform a miracle, upsetting his plans.  Rather, he saw it at a moment of further discernment. 

How Do I Do It?

How do I let go of attachments?  Recognizing that you have them is an important first step.

The Catechism tells us how to remedy distraction in prayer; by “turning back our hearts, for a distraction reveals what we are attached to.” 1 

Perhaps, similarly, we can do the same towards our lives: as hard as it may be to accept the present circumstances, turn our hearts back to Jesus, and remind ourselves that as a disciple of Christ, we really seek only to do His will, and so we're indifferent to the particulars. 

This takes hard work to achieve such a centered, detached state of being. 

But the work, I can imagine, is well worth it.  As it allows us to celebrate the present moment and lose all anxiety about the future. 

What About You? 

How do you cope when your life doesn’t go as expected? 

And what are your thoughts or takes on the Wedding at Cana story?  It really provides a lot of room for thought--particularly regarding the role of the BVM.  More on that topic here

1 . Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Paragraphs 2115 & 2729.  April 1995. 


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