2ND SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME 2013
Today’s Gospel comes from John and the theme of this gospel is that Jesus is the source of life. In chapter 10 Jesus says: “I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness.” Perhaps the new couple might have half expected Jesus, this popular prophet, to burst out in a tirade against drink and dance and intermingling. With the kingdom of God so close at hand, they ought to be repenting instead of carousing. But no, Jesus seems to be enjoying himself in the celebrating atmosphere of the wedding at Cana.
If, then, I am one of those people who feel that to be a Christian is a burden, then it seems that I have not yet grasped the meaning of Christ’s message.
This first of Jesus’ miracles is not recounted by the Synoptic Gospels. It is only John the Evangelist who tells us of this miracle. Very possibly the teen-ager John was among the guests present. And of course he wrote of it as an old man. We must assume that the Canaincident was something which he could never forget. No doubt he dwelled upon it often. I am certain he wrote of it because he felt the miracle has much to teach us.
And it, in fact, is not called a miracle by John, but a sign. The gospel of John always works at two levels. What happens at the historical level is only significant if it leads us to a deeper revelation of God in Christ. John's Gospel does not present many miracles in its pages. There are three physical healings and two physical transformations. There is the multiplication of the loaves and fish, and this changing of water into wine about which we read in today's liturgy. These are "signs" or revelations pointing toward Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. They are offered to those who can see these signs in hopes that they will come to believe in Him. Jesus’ action reveals that the promises of God in the Old Testament are realized in his person.
Maximus of Turindescribes the scene; “Addressing the expectant servants he said: "Fill the jars with water." The servants promptly obeyed, and suddenly in a marvelous way the water began to acquire potency, take on color, emit fragrance, and gain flavor—all at once it changed its nature completely!”
Thus Scripture says “his disciples believed in him." John stated in the prologue that, despite the fact that his own did not receive him, those who did believe in him would be given the power to become children of God.
So to understand today’s story we need to be aware that, like much of John’s writing, it is full of symbolic language. Too often we see this simply as a gesture of hospitality: The hosts ran out of wine, Jesus felt sorry for them, and so changed six jugs of water into wine to spare them the embarrassment. Such an interpretation however misses the main point.
Scripture scholars, Raymond Brown among them, tell us that in the early chapters of John’s Gospel there is a strong recurring theme of Jesus replacing the old with the new. That is the case here. He is replacing the old rite of cleansing with something new.
The Gospel today says there were six large stone pots full of water. Key to grasping the significance of this miracle is the particular jugs of water. They’re the receptacles that hold the water practicing Jews use for their ceremonial washings — not for actual hand- or foot-washings, but for ritual purification rites. It’s presumed that if such jugs are ever contaminated with wine, they can never again be used for purification purposes. In a certain sense therefore, there is no going back. This is something new!
As the well-known Johannine scholar C.H. Dodd once put it: “By this miracle, John is symbolically showing that Jesus replaced the water of Judaism, the laws and religious customs of the Hebrew dispensation, with the wine of Christianity.”
Isaiah says in the First Reading that God is going to give his people a new name. They will be called “My delight.” Their land will be known by the name “Espoused.” The Lord will marry them and bring forth abundance from their lands.
Water turned to wine is a wonderful image of people who are fresh out of hope and need to drink of the promise and its satisfaction. You have kept the good wine till now.
These words make perfect sense in the context of the account of the miracle but this phrase also has a much deeper meaning since it refers to Christ himself. The prophets were all excellent messengers of God. But none can compare with Christ, God’s own Son. He is the best wine of all.
God finally and definitively revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ, his only Son. And in Christ our understanding of what kind of God we have is brought to its height. “You have kept the best wine until now.” This wine represents the Christian Testament, the new life, the new Way of Jesus. The purifying waters of one era will be replaced by the wine of love and forgiveness of the new era.
This first of the signs given by Jesus provides us with the pattern for all the other miracles and indeed for all of the dealings between God and his people. And there is an awful lot of wine. Each jar, we are told, could hold up to 20 or 30 gallons. Altogether 120-180 gallons of wine! Again, this is a symbol of the generous and lavish love of God and the fullness of life which he wants us to experience. It is a pattern of overwhelming and undeserved generosity; to the pouring out of the very life of Jesus his Son.
Jesus initially protests at his mother’s request, “My hour has not yet come.” For John, Jesus’ “hour” revolves around the heart of his ministry: his dying and rising. In John’s Gospel, Mary appears only here and in Chapter 19 on Golgotha— during Jesus’ hour.
The Canamiracle is linked with the passion story: the hour, for the evangelist, is the hour of the passion; the Jewish rites of purification are replaced by the messianic purification accomplished on the cross. Later we hear John say, “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin”. The real, final epiphany is the cross.
Jesus’ epiphany—the revelation of his glory—did not end with the sign he performed but with the belief to which his followers came. Not only does Jesus change water into wine, but he transforms his disciples from being mere companions to becoming those who believe in him. They move from fellowship to the intimacy of belief and their lives will never be the same. He changed them. He will change us. And our lives will never be the same.