The Gospel for January 17th, 2016: “The Wedding at Cana”
John 2: 1-11
There was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” [And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it. And when the head waiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the head waiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.
In John Chapter 1 there is a subtitle, “The Book of Signs.” Although this episode is in Chapter 2, it follows as one of the “signs” of Christ’s divinity and His revelation of the new covenant with Him who the Father has sent. Therefore, I will reflect on three signs I see in this passage that through interpretation speak powerfully to our relationship with Christ.
There is the obvious sign of Jesus’s first public miracle, turning the water into wine. This miracle is a clear testament to His disciples of His divine power as they gradually learn the full identity of this man they chose to follow. On a related note, Mary’s role in prompting Jesus’s miracle suggests her role as our Mother in her ability to advocate on our behalf, as she does for the married couple. Marian devotion is an effective spiritual tool if we embrace it in our daily lives.
The second sign requires deeper interpretation. Although it saves the celebration, the transformation of the water into wine is an interesting first miracle because it does not seem on the surface to contain the same urgency that so many of His miracles dealing with healing and forgiveness do. Let’s face it; wine or no wine, the couple is still married and the purpose of the celebration is complete. However, it is significant that the water pots are for “ceremonial washings,” (6) in other words baptism. Since this episode follows shortly after Jesus’s baptism, the first sign in John’s gospel, it seems more than a coincidence. If we continue this line of thought, the water-to-wine miracle can be read as a sacramental phenomenon. Given that Jesus’s blood is given as wine in the sacrament of communion, the second sign becomes apparent. Jesus is foreshadowing the sacred roles of both baptism and communion in the salvation of His disciples. As His followers, we should never fail to recognize their role in enhancing our relationship with Him.
Finally the third sign I notice can be read in the headwaiter’s comment to the bridegroom, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now” (10). Are we to infer merely that Jesus is an excellent vinter? I don’t think that is a surprising insight, even if he only starts with water. Instead, I think it more helpful to dwell on the surprising timing created by His miracle: contrary to the norm, the best wine is served last. This reminds us the same is true of our lives as Christians in this world. If we are to follow Jesus, then it really is after this life and in eternity that we will experience the best of what our Savior has to offer. This counterintuitive characteristic of salvation, that in the present we sacrifice our own plans and the offerings of the world, with patience and hope for eternal joy with our Lord, is basic to the daily choices we make as Christians.
Given these signs, what appears as a nifty magic trick at the Wedding in Cana is much more. It is a powerful mystery on which for us to reflect in this gospel. It is the second luminous mystery of the Rosary and a reminder that with Jesus we must look carefully because there is always more than meets the eye at first glance, really more than we can imagine in this life. May we instead rely on prayer and hope and have faith in His promise to us so that we may taste the good wine in the end.