Jan 18, 2013

2nd Sunday: We who are water - Christ who is wine

His signs . . . revealed his glory

The Sunday Word: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/012013.cfm

Is 62: 1-5
1 Cor 12: 4-11
Jn 2: 1-11

Wedding celebrations are among the most festive and joyful.  Across cultural lines, we begin with the commitment of the bride and groom, hopefully in a context of religious faith, only to be followed by a grand party that may last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.  I think it clear from the Gospel today that we find ourselves in the midst of a lengthy celebration.

Were these relatives of Jesus?  Likely they were perhaps on Mary’s side of the family.  And of course the potential for embarrassment on the part of the groom and bride that the wine has run out was very real. Imagine the scene.  Surrounded by music and joyful laughter, some of which was undoubtedly brought on by the wine (were the disciples of Jesus among the mildly intoxicated?) a problem is identified and an unexpected person, Mary, says to Jesus: “They have no more wine.”

Yes, the Immaculate Conception, the virgin Mother of God, is concerned about the wine! How beautifully human this beloved story is presented. Why would Mary make such a remark to Jesus? Obviously, she felt he could do something about it but was a miracle in Mary’s mind? 

Jesus’ response to Mary’s statement has always been a point of debate: “Woman, how does your concern affect me?  My hour has not yet come.” Scripture scholars have literally translated this line as: “What to me and to you, woman?” We might say Jesus is asking his mother – “How does this involve the both of us?”

Mary’s order to the servers is a simple, “Do whatever he tells you.”  She leaves it up to Jesus to carry this concern forward and from that point he does take charge of the situation. The water he ordered placed in the jars (180 gallons) all becomes the finest vintage of wine. Let the party continue!  

We would love to see the look of surprise on Jesus’ face as Mary addressed the concern of the bridal couple.  Socially, running out of wine would have been a disaster.  The Head Waiter was responsible to see that things went well.  He was in effect a Master of Ceremonies; likely a family member whose very reputation was on the line.

It’s clear, however, that Jesus was influenced by his Mother’s observation. John may be showing us the influence of Mary as the public ministry of Jesus began: “All right, son, now it’s time to get on with this.  Here’s your first chance.” Hmm, how delightfully Jewish!

It was time and with this first of Jesus’ miracles (signs) our Lord comes on the scene – all because they did whatever he told them. So too with Jesus himself – he followed the concern of his own mother and carried through her wishes. Her role in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry was both cultural and symbolic.

Yet, this Gospel scene is undoubtedly not so much about a festive wedding as it is about the self-giving ministry of Christ.  It is the “wedding” of two testaments – one now fulfilled in the transformation of the wine from the vineyard, which is the Biblical image of Israel.

Jesus will come and with his presence only the finest will be made.  The Prophet Isaiah writes this Sunday (Is 62: 1-5): “No more shall people call you ‘Forsaken” or your land ‘Desolate,’ but you shall be called ‘My Delight,’ and your land ‘Espoused. . .’

God will marry his people to himself as a groom marries a bride.  These nuptial images imply an intimacy of the deepest love and faithfulness.  God will transform the plainest substance (water) into the finest vintage (wine).  When Christ steps in, things change.  And so, Jesus begins his earthly ministry around a wedding feast at which wine was given and in which a new and forever covenant is established. However, this was not the only time Jesus changed wine.

The Gospel should remind us that the earthly ministry of Jesus will end as it began - with a feast, a supper of sorts at which wine will be given again as his very life offered for all. A wedding feast to begin and a Last Supper to end.  Both involve relationships, covenant, wine, feasting, celebration, and a gift.

In the giving of his life for us, Jesus makes himself present around a table which will become a cross which will become a tomb which will become for all time a sign of hope, glory and life for all who would come to believe. The feast of the Eucharist is our constant invitation to wed ourselves in an intimate union between we who are water and Christ who is wine.
When we eat this bread,
And drink this Cup,
We proclaim your Death, O Lord,
Until you come again.