Even though we are no longer in the Christmas season, we find echoes of it in today’s readings. The Gospel account of the miracle at the wedding at Cana brings us the third event that was once part of the Solemnity of the Epiphany: the visit of the Magi, the baptism of the Lord, and the wedding at Cana. All three were events that revealed who Jesus really was and pointed to his mission. Look closely at the wedding at Cana account. There is only a passing reference to the groom. The bride is not mentioned at all. No interaction with Jesus and the couple. The passage seemingly gives no insight to married of family life.
What is the lesson of this miracle story? Scripture scholar Mary McGlone writes, “The two characters who really matter in this story are Jesus and his mother. John invites us to this wedding because marriage is the favorite scriptural symbol of God’s desire for loving union with humanity. But this wedding is short on wine; the relationship between God and the people is sorely lacking in the love and joy that were the reasons for which God initiated the relationship.
That problem brings Jesus’ mother to center stage. John never names her, not because he didn’t know her name, but because throughout his Gospel she symbolizes more than her own person and moment in history. Here, Mary represents the people of God, the chosen ones through whom God eventually sent the Messiah to the world. With exquisite simplicity, she only says, “They have no wine.”
Those words described Israel’s plight; the lack of the wine that symbolizes the joy of life and love was intolerable. Jesus’ response to Mary has various translations; it is an idiom in the language of diplomacy among Jesus’ people. If we translate it as, “Woman, what does that have to do with us?” we begin to understand the dynamic at play. First of all, by addressing her as “woman,” Jesus has picked up on the wedding theme. He addresses her not as his mother, but as Israel who is called to be the spouse of God. Jesus’ question implies that they represent the two sides of the covenant which is in need of attention.
Here for the first time, Jesus mentions his hour, the reason for his being. He tells Mary that his hour has not come. Jesus’ hour, the fulfillment of his vocation to unite humanity with God, is a decisive moment, but it is also a reality wherever he is present. Thus, although his hour has not “come,” (his passion and death) it is already in process.
We know the rest of the story. The six stone jars, as empty as the law once engraved on Moses’ stone tablets, are waiting to be filled with newness. The wine that came from the jars symbolized divine love offered again, just when people recognized their need. At Cana, Jesus performed the first and primary of his signs. The wedding feast symbolized the renewed covenant. At this wedding feast, Jesus acted out a living parable of the announcement he made in the Nazareth synagogue: “Today, this is fulfilled” among you.” (Celebration January 2019, p 19.)
Today we are called to be both Mary and the servants.
In our prayer we call out to God and express our need to be renewed though his love. As servants we are to respond to God’s invitation to bring the wine of his love to others, by reaching out to end prejudice and discrimination, standing up and protect the sacredness of human life, and recognizing the immigrant as our brother or sister in Christ.
On a personal note, I thank you for the Christmas wishes and gifts you sent my way. I am touched by your thoughtfulness and generosity.