The first reading today, from the Prophet Isaiah, speaks about what has happened to God’s Chosen People, Israel, His beloved. Israel has been more or less destroyed and its faith watered down and weakened over the centuries.
Yet the Prophet Isaiah, looking into the future, states: Nations shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory.
God never abandons His people. The Jewish Scriptures have so many stories of God being tempted to forsake His people, yet always in the end, God’s merciful love triumphs and God once again seeks ways to renew His people and to draw their love to Him so that they can be saved.
The second reading is from the First Letter to the Corinthians, begins to instruct us about the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believing community, the life of the Church. There are so many gifts but they are always given to benefit the community.
We must focus on that reality: spiritual gifts are meant to benefit the believing community. When a person begins to draw attention to themselves rather than to the Lord and to the believing community, we must be suspicious that the gifts are not from the Holy Spirit.
When we return to the Gospel of John after hearing the first and second readings, we can understand that the gifts that Jesus has are always for building up the community, for drawing others to God, for manifesting the great Works of God so that people may believe. This is done to fulfill the promise of the Lord that He will restore His people and vindicate them once again.
The wedding celebration at Cana was for Jesus a turning point in his life. It started off seemingly ordinary enough but suddenly a much deeper reality made itself clear to him in the voice of his Mother and his life was never the same again.
Has it happened to you? Whole life turned upside down.
It’s one of the uncanny aspects of existence that our future is often dependent on what seems mere chance; the direction of our lives is changed by a pebble or a cigarette butt; the path to our destiny begins in the most unexpectedly mundane places. What starts off as a chat in the kitchen can become the road to our destiny.
The marriage feast of Cana was for Jesus just such a commonplace event. A time to leave behind the busyness of everyday life and just relax for a bit; to enjoy the company of friends, to drink a glass of wine and join in one of the many conversations. Then the wine ran out.
Mary, always on the alert to the needs of others, notices the problem and says to her son: They have no wine.
Jesus picks up the double meaning. Do I hear you ask ‘What double meaning?’
Notice what has happened! The little wedding feast without wine suddenly becomes an image for something else, something much more. It’s as if Mary flung her arms out to the whole world and said – Son, they have no wine! Mary is now speaking not only about the wedding feast, she is speaking about poor drought-stricken humanity, the whole world: Son, they have no wine!
We who have had the benefit of 2000 years of meditating on this episode may add our own complaint to Mary’s: And if we have no wine, Lord, how can we make Eucharist?
In the Scriptures there are other examples of how an innocent statement suddenly punches through to another, broader, deeper level of meaning. Take little Isaac walking beside his father Abraham, carrying on his head the wood for the fire on which he will be sacrificed. He doesn’t yet know that God has asked his father to sacrifice his only son. And he asks: Father, where is the Lamb? Without realizing it Isaac had asked the very question the whole cosmos was asking as it waited to be redeemed: Where is the Lamb? Where is the sacrifice that will take away the sins of the world?
We may well wonder if Jesus marveled, as we do, at the wisdom of his Mother’s Spirit-filled words. Their profound simplicity completely disarmed him. Suddenly he was no longer the guest, he was the Bridegroom – and his beautiful Bride, the Church, stood before him, longing for the nuptial banquet with her Beloved to begin. For Jesus this could mean only one thing, the Passion.
Did the humanity of Jesus falter, as it did in the Garden of Gethsemane? My Father, he said, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. (Mt 26:39)
He answers his Mother: Woman why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.
Mary does not reply to her Son. She has not actually asked him for anything but left him free to respond as he wishes. There is a mystery here, a profoundly mystical moment, and deep within us we imagine we can hear Jesus speak the words: Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.
The first great sign has come, the first epiphany of his public life in the Gospel according to John; there is now no turning back.
Mary tells the servants, that’s us, of course: Do whatever he tells you. A moment later there are six stone jars full of wine, each jar holding twenty or thirty gallons! It’s almost like Jesus exclaims ‘You want wine? I’ll give you wine!’
Three years later the wine would turn into blood, as it still does today on our altars, sufficient for all mankind.
May the Lord Jesus be vindicated in our lives. May our lives be transformed by listening to the Word of God and receiving the Eucharist, so that we are able to radiate the gifts of the Holy Spirit and build up our Christian communities in love.