17 January 2016
1 Cor 12.4-11
Some time ago I celebrated the wedding Mass of a young couple, friends of mine. Both the Eucharist and the reception afterwards were joyous affairs. The young couple were very much in love and one could easily sense that they were determined to enjoy their wedding day. They intended the same for all the invited guests. And their mood seemed to have caught on. As far as I could see everyone enjoyed the day also.
In taking up the theme of a wedding in the gospel today, John the evangelist presents not only Jesus’ first miracle but he calls it a ‘sign’, as he does all the other miracles in his gospel. For John the miracle of Cana is a sign that points beyond itself to a much deeper meaning. This is the new creation and we share it. Jesus is replacing the old Jewish religious rites with the new wine which is himself. It is the best wine that is saved until now. Like the multiplication of the loaves and fishes there is a superabundance of wine. Not a stingy or small amount as humans might give out but God’s lavish generosity. It is saying that our God is a God of life, life that is abundant, still more and more abundant, life that we call eternal. It begins now according to St. John.
This event, the wedding at Cana is very meaningful. The God of Jesus does not usually reveal himself on a mountaintop or in a church in imposing majesty, but instead at a wedding, and in the company of friends. God is preparing us his people for a new covenant. Jesus is the bridegroom and he is inviting us to the wedding. This new relationship of God with his people is as different as wine is from water.
John tells us that Jesus asks the servants to fill six stone jars which were used for the Jewish ‘rites of purification’. Water and purification rites are referring to certain religious practices of Jesus’ day. From that time on religion will no longer be based on the law and constant washings or ablutions or on the observance of precepts undertaken out of fear of punishment and guilt.
This is precisely what John is saying here. The God that Jesus came to reveal is a very different God to the idea that the people of the time had of God. That was a God to be feared and obeyed lest they be punished. Jesus is telling us that God is not a God of fear and punishment as sadly so many people still believe. Also the God of Jesus is not a God distant from us and delighting in sacrifices of animals but Someone very close to his people, just as he would be present still at a wedding feast. He is a God who is that close to us sharing our joys and concerns. Of course the wedding feast is meant to be a joyful affair but later on in the life of a couple there will be difficulties. God will still be very close to them, concerned for them, supporting and encouraging them through their relatives and friends.
A relative of mine, a young man and his bride-to-be were sitting down in his father’s house one day when I went for a visit. They were preparing for their wedding. They were making a list of all the important things for the wedding Mass and the reception afterwards. One thing they didn’t bother writing down was to have water available at the reception. It was so ordinary that it was taken for granted that it would be there and so wasn’t worth mentioning in the list they were making. It is the same in today’s gospel. The 6 water jars that were there were so ordinary and part of every day life that they hardly merited a second glance. The guests would have automatically washed their hands in order to be purified. Yet these so ordinary water jars were chosen by Jesus to be the containers of the abundance of new wine. It seems to have been a pattern in the life and teaching of Jesus. He used very ordinary things like water jars, like flour, leaven, a farmer sowing seed, hens with chickens under their wings protecting them etc. to be the means of getting across his message. Do we fail to see that the same dynamic is still used by God? Today in the gospel it is a wedding feast, another time it will be fishermen at work etc. Where do we see God present in our ordinary daily experiences? God still comes to us throughout each day in very ordinary ways if we can become aware of this. He is very close to us, delighting in our celebrations and times of joy and very concerned when we are suffering or struggling.
If Jesus can change something like water into wine as a sign of his love for the young couple and in response to the sensitivity of Mary who noticed the lack of wine, can he not change us too into the kind of people that we are called to be? Do we believe this? Do we offer ourselves to him for this transformation or change? After all, isn’t this what we celebrate each time at the Transformation or Consecration of the Mass? We believe that God through his Holy Spirit changes parts of creation like bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus. Do we pray that God can do the same with other parts of creation, you and me, to be better persons, better members of his family? Can he not use us to work together to make the world where we are a better place? St. Paul in the 2nd reading reminds us that the Holy Spirit gives us a variety of gifts to bring this about. Do we pray to the Holy Spirit for these?
“Lord Jesus, as you changed water into wine at Cana we offer ourselves to you believing that you have the power to change and transform us too in ways that are best for us and for others. Amen.”
Fr Jim Kirstein SMA, Cork