MARRIAGE AT CANA — JOHN 2:1-11 January 20, 2013 Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
MARRIAGE AT CANA — JOHN 2:1-11
January 20, 2013
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
Jesus has received an invitation to the wedding, and His disciples have come, and Mary, too, is present. A wedding effects changes, in relations, in families, in the life of the village and even in the water of this village. Cana to this day has a small population, perhaps about one thousand people. For a funeral and for a wedding, all the village turns out, for everyone is somebody’s cousin or sister or uncle or grandparent. The whole clan attends such a major happening, a wedding.
In certain villages in Palestine, the newly married couple receives something like royal honors. Seated on a sort of rustic throne, the couple looks at their fellow citizens filing past them; thereafter songs, dances, and country entertainment honor the newlyweds.
The usual month for weddings is March when nature awakens and the farm produce has only begun to sprout. Custom has established Wednesday for such a celebration. Mary seems involved in the needs of the marriage couple; perhaps her relative is in the entourage.
The wine gives out before the prescribed seven-day festival. A change is needed. Mary whispers to her son, “They have no wine.” It was not a prayer, and not a formal request, but it exposed a situation that soon would embarrass the host, and Mary, we imagine, silently hoped that Jesus could somehow remedy this shortfall. Couldn’t He? Wouldn’t He?
A moment’s pause will make us conscious of the changes unfolding each moment before us. The static only seems to exist. Even concrete, I am told, constantly grows more hard. January gives way, day by day, to the coming months that will return warmth and the sun; the caterpillar becomes a butterfly, and the rhododendron buds flowers gorgeously. Our lot is to react to the change that moment by moment affects us.
“Do whatever he tells you.” Mary speaks to the servers with a confidence that Jesus will act positively. For his mother’s sake, Jesus does what he would not otherwise have done. Mary’s unspoken, yet persevering plea prompts Jesus to change his hour and even change the divine plan; Moses did that in staying God’s wrath against a wayward people; in time a Samaritan woman will win a miracle for her daughter by referring to table scraps. Perseverance effects a change.
Jesus tells the servers to “Fill the jars with water.” The six stone jars usually provided twenty or thirty gallons of water for the many guests who ceremoniously and constantly washed their hands. And when the servers had topped off the water, Jesus told them to “draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”
In tasting the water become wine, that jovial fellow would have smiled; here was fine wine saved until the wedding party was well advanced. He would congratulate the bridegroom on the excellent vintage. Don’t we all smile at this wonder for a wedding, at this exuberance of Jesus in bringing about a super abundance of quality wine!
Water gives life to grass and to plants. On our Island, we tire of the rainy days, although we acknowledge the goodness of the rain. Christ changes the good water and makes it excellent wine. By the words of consecration, we witness in faith the bread and wine changing into the Body and Blood of our Lord. In the Old Testament, Moses, seeking to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, changes the Nile River from water into blood.
And a wedding changes a man and a woman; “a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (Genesis 2:24). Previously, the Smiths did not know the Jones family, but nuptials change relations. And from a wedding, an old house changes to a new family.
This change of water into wine remains for us Christians a wonder among the miracles of Christ. Painters have celebrated the event as early as the catacombs; medieval times saw painters employ extra-large canvases to express joy at such a change. Poets and fiction writers have often celebrated this change both literally and figuratively; Ben Jonson in the seventeenth century preferred that his beloved should leave a kiss within the cup, and he would change to that from wine. All humans rejoice at this beautiful change of water into wine.
This was the first sign Jesus worked to prove that his mission was divine. Stone jars, not clay pots, might be moved only with difficulty. They were heavy, practically fixed, so standing in plain view no one could imagine a trick of their sudden appearance full of wine. Wedding guests saw servants fill these jars with water.
God intervenes in the normal working of natural laws. The divine will expresses itself among us humans. Although this was the first of Jesus’ divine works, He effected in John’s purview six other miracles that are “signs.” Jesus heals the near-death of the royal official’s son; servants tell this official that the fever left his son about one in the afternoon. “The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ This official and his whole household came to believe” (John 4:52-54). And Jesus cures a man sick for thirty-eight years (John 5). And Jesus multiplies the bread to feed five thousand. He cures the man born blind (John 9). And Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11). All of these miracles Jesus works to prove His own divinity, and to demonstrate that God works among us.
By His works do we not know Him? The glory of Christ’s divinity shines in each of these miracles. It shines in the water become wine. Amen.