"They have no more wine."
Sunday readings: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/011716.cfm
I recall back when I celebrated my first Mass at the home parish where I grew up back in Chicago, which was actually not my “First,” first Mass, about a week after my ordination my parents wondered about the reception afterwards. Many family and friends had been invited and we knew what to do for the Mass but how would you celebrate this event afterwards? “We’ve never done this before,” I remember my mother saying.
So, I told my parents to do what you would for a wedding reception. We laughed a bit but decided, why not? The Church is the bride and I’m the groom!
So, sure enough we had live music for dancing, a nice sit down dinner, a head table, an opportunity for many to receive my first blessing as all newly ordained and plenty of time for folks to just enjoy and celebrate. And of course an open bar. Thankfully, everyone behaved themselves and the evening went very well leaving many good memories. Since there was no “Bride” as such I danced with my Mother. Yet, what Groom has not danced with his Mother at his wedding reception?
We mark such significant events in our lives with celebration. The same was certainly true for Jesus and his disciples who attended what must have been a likewise joyful event at the wedding in Cana. John makes the point that “the mother of Jesus was there.” (aka. Mary). We’re not sure where Joseph was of course and some might speculate that he was already deceased. So, it was likely some relation to Mary and her family perhaps but either way the scene is one of joyful celebration with a couple joined in a holy bond as I have always imagined that I am as priest.
The story of this wedding at Cana is an opportunity for John as the Gospel writer to not just relay the message that Jesus enjoyed a good party. While I imagine he did like any of us, this story is best understood by looking at the end of this passage where we read: “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.”
Like the sign of the Magi and the baptism in the Jordan this event more fully points to the truth of who Jesus is and what can happen when he gets involved. He “revealed his glory” (he revealed his divinity) and those who witnessed this event, particularly his first followers, were moved to put faith in him. So, it is an indicator, a “sign” to notice and take note of. We too are called to faith in Christ Jesus and if we pay attention the signs are many. Read the second reading from this Sunday's Mass for example about the Corinthian Church.
The image of nuptials is significant as well. Why a wedding? Why not a Passover meal? Both are celebrations albeit different in their focus. Yet, the marriage image is especially personal. It reminds us of the permanent bond created between man and woman when they step forward in faith and trust, with full knowledge to give themselves to each other, “until death do we part.” While we certainly know the fragile state of marriage today, we also need to know of God’s intent. The image of a wedding is a well-known image in the Scriptures especially in the Old Testament. God weds himself to Israel.
This nuptial image of the covenant of marriage is used by Isaiah this Sunday in our first reading as he speaks with words that are clearly matrimonial: “espoused,” “his spouse,” “his builder shall marry you,” “bride and bridegroom.” The relationship between Israel and God is like a marriage is meant to be – a permanent covenant of fidelity and trust. God, the groom, provides and protects, sustains and gives life, offers life and fidelity, forgiveness and healing. No matter where the bride goes, this groom remains faithful and always longs for her return.
At the wedding of Cana, Mary becomes like the new Israel who recognizes that something is yet missing – “they have no more wine.” While her role here is of note, the story centers on Jesus. Like a good Jewish mother, she turns to her son, knowing that he can indeed do something –“Do whatever he tells you.” It is a reminder to us of our response to God.
And so Jesus does, although his response to his mother is culturally interesting left for a longer discussion, yet he indeed brings about a new change – a new richness as water is changed to become the finest wine and much of it by the way! It begs the question as to what can he do with our lives if we place our trust in him? What is possible in the Church and the larger human community for those who live by his covenant?
Jesus intervenes at this first stage of his public ministry, when there will be an abundance of new change, an invitation to deepen the bond between ourselves and God through Christ and a new relationship is established, a new marriage begins that will be more rich and full from before. This sign we must recognize as we do the sacramental signs of God reaching out to us in love and mercy. It is indeed a marriage made in heaven.
Where can we see this richness then? Paul’s letter to the Corinthians today speaks of the diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit he saw displayed in the community of the Corinthian Church: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, tongues and interpretation, discernment of spirits, prophecy. All come from the same Spirit of God for the common good of the Christian community.
Don’t we see the same today in the fullness of ministries of service in our parishes and beyond? The same Spirit is always at work among us. That same Spirit constantly is turning water into wine that all may come to know the Lord more deeply and live in fidelity and truth.
Every time we gather for the Eucharist, we mark that covenant made between God and humanity. We hear in the words of institution over the bread and wine: “The Blood of the new and eternal covenant which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin.”
This groom has lived and died and rose for his bride. We are children of that marriage born in water and spirit. And for this we must indeed celebrate.
Pour out on us, O Lord, the Spirit of your love,
and in your kindness
make those you have nourished
by this one heavenly Bread
one in mind and heart.
Through Christ our Lord.
(Prayer after Communion for Sunday)