[Or, ”I Want to Share My Joy with You, Part 2]
One of the gifts of St Ignatius that the Jesuits have carried on is the idea of Composing the Place or Entering the Story. I’ve done this here and there on my own and in Skagit County Jail in my jail chaplaincy there with Tierra Nueva. Basically, you take a scripture passage from the gospels – one with Jesus in it – and enter into the story in your imagination using ALL five of your senses. It’s an embodied experience. And you are basically doing Improv with Jesus as you go. [ I wrote about this in Fall 2013 when I did this with inmates and we entering the story of Jesus Calming the Storm ]
A few weeks ago I spent a week on an Ignatian spiritual retreat. It was a new thing for me. I was alone at a cabin on the Olympic Peninsula. Bill Z was my Ignatian spiritual director for the week. We spoke on the phone every night at 7 o’clock. Talked about the day, and looked ahead to the next. Bill has been a Jesuit for 30 years or more and a spiritual director for just as long. He was adept at helping me see God’s movement, as I entered into these stories with Jesus.
Each day I would spend three separate hours in prayer, he told me prior to the retreat. I wondered at first, ”How would I pray for three hours!” Then he told me what those hours would look like. I would begin by becoming still and quietly becoming aware of God’s Presence. And then expressing an audible intention in voice and heart that I truly want to know Jesus more intimately. And then most of the hour would be spent entering into the gospel story we had selected the night before. And not just observing, but participating -either as myself, or as one of the characters in the story, using all five of my senses, and diving in. At the end of the hour I would journal and reflect and dialogue with Jesus about what happened. Bill always asked in the evening, “What was your affect?”
One thing that emerged on Day One that Bill noticed was that I had a playful and joyful spirit in my interactions with Jesus and his friends. So Bill said, “How about we do the ‘Wedding at Cana’ story tomorrow.’ “Great!” I said.
The next day I imagined going to one of Jesus’ patrons houses before the wedding. Jesus and his disciples/followers/friends were hanging out on the back deck in the shade. I was welcomed into the group and actually asked to lead the group in improv games. Later than night Bill said, “Of course!” Then we strolled together through the town walking to the wedding.
For those unfamiliar with the story, he’re the basic gist. Jesus and his disciples are invited to a wedding in a small town called Cana. So they go. At some point in the festivities the wine runs out. Jesus’ mother is there, and pulls him aside, and brings this situation to Jesus’ attention. Jesus basically says, Mom! Oy! Not now. What it to me or to you?
But apparently he reconsiders. I pictured Jesus looking at the groom and see how he was distraught. They didn’t have much money, so they knew the wine would run out, but it was sooner than they thought. The groom was beginning to anticipate the shame of the community. And on his wedding day!
So Jesus stood up and went to the kitchen – where the servants were.
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (the Gospel of John, chapter 2)
I pictured the servant – who had taken the water become wine to the “master of the feast” – coming back to the kitchen with this totally giddy smile on his face, holding back the laughter as he approaches Jesus and his servant-friends. And Jesus is mirroring his giddy laughter. The servant, with tears coming out of the sides of eyes says, “You should have SEEN the LOOK ….(gasping for breath through the laughter) … on the feastmaster’s …..face when he….. tasted it! It was SO hilarious! And the GROOM! He was shocked, and yet totally just rolled with it! (Laughter of the whole bunch, as they sit around and the table and partake of the now-abundant wine.)
So this was the first miracle of Jesus. Many have wondered why would this be his first miracle? So many other miracles were about healing and deliverance.
Here’s what I’m experiening, wondering, and coming to believe: Jesus, at His essence, wants to share his Joy with us. AND he wants this Joy to be for ALL people. He wanted the bride and groom and their party to have extended joy, AND He wanted the servants to NOT be left out. But to participate in the Joy. So, he involves them. And he hangs out with them to bring them into the Joyful Dance.
Throughout the gospels we see healing occur and ensuing joy. People long held down by any number of forces, ailments, powers, injustice are set free, so that they can experience Joy yet again, or maybe for the first time.
And even Jesus is spoken of as someone who is fueled by Joy. In the letter to the Hebrews:
“..who for the JOY set before Him, endured the cross, despising its shame….” (12:2)
Jesus desires Joy of all people, and all creation, and endured the most bitter suffering and death to get there. Where can you discover Joy today? And how can you help those you encounter be freed up so they can taste its nectar as well.
Deep Shalom and Joy,
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Here’s a circa 1975 instrumental from Bruce Cockburn called ”Water into Wine”. See if you can tell when the Joy shows up!
Book reference: ‘Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything’ by James Martin, S. J.