THE WEDDING AT CANA
(A biblical reflection on the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time [Year C], 16 January 2022)
Gospel Reading: John 2:1-11
First Reading: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalms: Psalm 96:1-3,7-10; Second Reading: 1Corinthians 12:4-11
The Scripture Text
On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with His disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons, Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it. When the steward 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 steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. (John 2:1-11 RSV)
Today’s Gospel about the marriage feast at Cana is one of the most humanly appealing stories about Jesus. To see His interest and concern for the young married couple is something we all appreciate. There is also a warm humanness about the fact that Mary, His mother, apparently refused to take “no” for an answer from Jesus. And yet there seems to be something deeper about the Gospel, something very significant underlying the charming narrative.
We have a hint that there is something more here than just a story, for St. John apparently takes it for granted that his readers know that the water became wine. He really does not emphasize the miracle at all. Everyone knew, in John’s estimation, that Jesus had worked a miracle. John’s point was that the whole episode was a sign, a sign of the Church. John’s thinking is a little complex, but it is worth going into.
It is noteworthy that the event takes place at a wedding feast. The Old Testament pictured the people of Israel as the spouse of God, and saw in a wedding feast a symbol of the Messianic age. We heard an example of this imagery in the first reading of today’s Mass, from Isaiah. “… as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5 RSV). St. Paul, in accord with this same symbol, spoke of the Church, the new Israel, as the bride of Christ. And so, it appears that St. John used the wedding feast to show that he wished to say something about the Church.
Next, we must notice the prominence of Mary in the story. The Second Vatican Council has reemphasized an old, favorite idea of the early writers that Mary is a sign of the people in the Church. In a sense, she sums up in her person the whole human race as called to follow Christ. This is why Jesus addressed her with a term that strikes us as strange for a son to use, “Woman”.
The word “Woman” is rich in biblical connotation. It recalls the first woman, Eve, whose name means “mother of all the living”. Mary as the new Eve is the new mother of all the living, and so represents all of mankind. At Cana, Jesus stated that His hour has not yet come. Mary in effect told Him that we wanted His hour to come. The word “hour” meant His death and resurrection, the great mystery whereby He would gain our salvation. When Jesus worked His first miracle at the implicit request of Mary, He was beginning that whole series of events that would inevitably lead to His death and resurrection.
By His death and resurrection, Jesus was to form the new people of God, the Church. As Jesus changed the water into a fuller and richer liquid, that of wine, so He was going to change the old Jewish religion into the fuller and richer religion of Christianity. The choice wine kept until later in the history of the human race is Christianity, and we are the ones who enjoy it.
Yes, we are the ones who benefit by the Church, but the Church is not something we simply enjoy. It is not merely a source of goodness for us, as we sit back and drink its pleasant wine. Notice in the Gospel story that, though Jesus worked the miracle by His power alone, He did so in cooperation with others: with Mary, the headwaiter, and his assistants. And so in the Church, each one of us has his job to do in cooperation with Christ.
St. Paul, in the second reading of today’s Mass, is also talking about the Church. He tells us that in the Church there are many and varied functions which different people perform. The Church is not just the Pope and the bishops. All of us together make up the Church, and each one of us must do his share for the good of the whole Church.
Some time after their wedding day, a young couple comes to realize that marriage is more than something we enjoy. It is something that both husband and wife have to work at, because marriage is what they make it. And so with the Church. The Church today will largely be what we make it. Christ is doing His part. Are we doing ours?
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ,thank You. Today, You remind us that we certainly have the right to criticize the Church. You also remind us that by criticizing the Church, we are criticizing ourselves, for we are the Church. I realize that it is not honest or valid to step back and look at the Church as something apart from ourselves, any more than we can step back from and complain about an infected finger as if it were not part of us. Yes Lord, we are the Church. What the Church is today largely depends on what kind of people we are. Amen.
Jakarta, 15 January 2022
A Christian Pilgrim