In these Winter Sundays from Christmas to the start of Lenten season in March, we have gospel messages of the ongoing Epiphany of Jesus—of His Revelation given: We go from the Epiphany to The Magi to the Revelation of Christ at His Baptism to Jesus’ First Miracle at Cana, which is told today. We’ll have two Sundays ahead examining His identity proclamation at Nazareth’s synagogue and Sundays ahead with the Beatitudes and other amazing teachings of Sermon of the Mount . All of this is revelation unfolding of Jesus; it is manifestation or epiphany moments about Jesus to have us go “aha! Now I see more about Him.”
It’s the Wedding Feast of Cana Gospel for the weekend. Jesus’ first miracle shown to the public is at a relative’s wedding, just over in Cana, not real far from Nazareth. Mary is very involved in this occasion of Jesus—as they both arrive as special guests to a couple’s wedding and its feast. That St. John with his gospel does pick this event out, as a highlight of seven great miracles of Jesus, has much significance, as does the wedding setting. John sees Jesus Christ as a Groom and we as the people invited to betrothal and wedded union to God via Him. It’s quite obvious this is John’s vision if you understand his own revelations shown to him of heaven and the wedding supper of the Lamb and of Mary in the heavens as a mother of the redeemed who have become espoused and wed into the eternal Son there.
But I can only say those few words about that, without going into the deep end!
I wear my wedding vestment today for this Mass of the Cana Gospel. It just seemed appropriate, though plain green is what is usual for the day. Wearing this, I recall how I have officiated at over 500 Catholic wedding Masses or ceremonies in over three decades of clergy witness. I jokingly say sometimes that I, like King Solomon, have wed hundreds of women in my lifetime! Of course, I mean that I’ve wed them to someone else! I was their clergy witness and often the one to prepare them for the holy side of Holy Matrimony. Some of the 500 couples keep in touch with me. Even on this weekend, I heard how a more recently wed couple have a baby on the way. Another couple called me yesterday from Pittsburgh, informing me of how they are doing. They married in the late 1990’s, and have six children now, one in college. Another couple arranges to see me once, twice or more a year—they live in Montgomery County, and I did their wedding in the late 1980’s. I saw one of them at Winterfest. A couple I wed from the 2000’s now live near Hollywood, and last January I was their guest at the Rose Bowl parade. I am happy for all of them. Some of the 500 have not stayed married, due to something. I grieve for them about that, but they still have their faith and Christ remains the faithful BrideGroom to them, for the larger picture of love.
Let me segue into looking at this John chapter 2 text of the wedding at Cana.
We know the couple knew Mary and Jesus, and smartly put them on the guest list. Jesus kept that wedding and feast on his calendar, even while he then was just starting out in his public ministry. That was considerate. Can a is the next place over from Nazareth, and we know that Nathaniel the Apostle was from there, the Jew without guile (as Jesus said of him). Was it someone of Nathaniel’s kin getting married?
In the deeper Bible study, I am fascinated with the order of St. John’s Gospel. He puts this miracle at Cana (involving wine) at the front end of the Gospel, with six other specific miracle-signs to follow in his first half telling of The Story of Jesus, in the section called the Book of Signs. The Gospel of John has the Book of Glory in its latter half, devoting much attention to Jesus’ later teachings, His Passion, Death and Resurrection.
In the Gospel, John does makes us wait for almost the whole Gospel to go by until he brings us the presence of Mary again, at the end of the Gospel in chapter 19. She is curiously quiet for the whole ministry of Jesus, and John tells it purposely so. John brings Mary back in at Gospel’s end to speak of the similar subject at Jesus’ start: “The Hour to come.” This theme, first shown in chapter two, later returns in chapters 12, 17 and 19, referring to Jesus’ Sacrifice, taught by Him to come, presented at the Last Supper, and acted out to its end at The Cross.
But Jesus mentions it in the Cana wedding. The pleading for a wedding rescue brings the many gallons of rich wine He transforms miraculous for the couple in need. But recall how Mary asked for it, and received the odd reply: (Jesus says) “Woman, why do you involve Me? My Hour has not yet come.”
Jesus says in this answer that Mary is more than just his mother, but that she represents the re-creation He is bringing. He is more like saying: What’s your involvement with Me ahead in “The” Hour for which I have come? It will involve wine and thirst. Jesus is speaking of the Cup of Salvation, which is the Cup of Suffering He will take. He will drink it for thirst of souls to save ahead. She will be there for that, giving Him strength at His Crucifixion at Golgotha. She is the New Eve Woman. Jesus says that the Hour to have that new life begin for the world, via a Sacrifice to save a wedding, is way down the road and in many month’s time. But here we are at a wedding, and this couple needs help? Ok.
Yes, Jesus says to Mary. ‘I will help.’ Mary says to the attendants: “Do whatever He tells you.” Jesus will do His first miracle (His first sign) at this wedding. It’s an ordinary wedding, but Jesus will make it extraordinary. It’s a wedding reception ready to tank, and one that could soon feel for the couple like a jinx on their union—but Jesus saves the situation. He remedies the drink situation by quickly providing 180 gallons of very exquisite wine, made from well water.
Now, John’s Gospel parallels this with Jesus saving a much larger wedding situation that was tanking badly. Ours. We were meant to be wedded in a loving partnership with God, but we were separated, even to the feeling of cursed, to never have that eternal love. Yet Jesus Christ saves that wedding. He is the Groom and we are meant to be the Bride. The end of John’s Gospel reveals the “Hour” of salvation for that hope.
As the fulfillment of His ministry is at hand, at written in John chapter 19, Jesus’ blood is spilled out, for our multitude of sins to be covered in grace. Even more amazing, as John’s Gospel has told, Jesus is the True Vine, and He is the offering in the Cup, shown at the Last Supper, which will be spread forth and multiplied to more than 180 gallons but into zillions of gallons consecrated into chalices of wine made to His Blood, bringing us the miracle of partaking in His wedding save. We get the benefit of this miracle. We of today are now in the wedding, and the Body and Blood of Christ comes to us in the liturgy of celebration.
Remember back to Cana: Mary had asked Him to do something. He spoke to her of His Hour to come. The Hour is here for us as Jesus is doing something fantastic in His Mercy and Salvific Love. He is the Sacrament of salvation in this house and for its people.
The book-end message and connection of Mary from start to end is clear in John chapter 19 at The Cross, as Mary is there at Calvary, and she is certainly speaking to Him, and He to her. While her words are not written down, John gives the non-verbal message of Mary and the verbal one of her Son, in verses 25-26 “Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother… When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple (John)…He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” (“Woman” is said to Mary, now she realizes the New Eve and Re-Creation connection.) .Then He gives her into John the apostle’s care, since John stands beside Mary at the Crucifixion scene. Jesus will now be the BrideGroom proposing to all the world to receive His covenant offer: I give myself to you, beloved. Will you wed me? I give all here at the Cross, as my fully poured out love for thee.
Jesus is the remedy for our New Love and New Life with God. His love will save us, if we take it in. Will we say “yes” to this offer with our lives, with our choices? Will we agree, with all the others invited to the embodiment of being Jesus’ spouse, of our self-dying promise to love Him in return? (A wedding saved.)
In His dying love for us, Jesus said next, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. (Notice the irony—a vessel of wine conveniently right there beneath the Cross!) The soldiers take it as a request to serve Jesus. Maybe they looked over the Mary, His mother, and she gave a nod of approval, as in “Do what He asks.” So they put a sponge soaked in that wine with a sprig of hyssop and put it up to His mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, He said, “It is finished.” And bowing His head, He handed over His spirit..”
It is like Jesus is answering the message again of Cana, but with the Final Hour now at hand. As if He’s saying: Now it is consummated, Mother. Behold, I am lifted up… and I will do what is needed, Mother, to save the situation. A bride needs to celebrate her union with her Groom. I will provide for it to happen well. My provision to save sinners in the world, Woman (New Eve), is right here, and it will be taken to The One in change, The Father, and He will give the approval that what I have provided is worthy to offer ‘the guests.’ Thank you, Mother, for you helped me call notice to the world of the need for My Perfect Provision, even in the New Wine of the Blood of My Passion.
That curious vessel laying nearby the Cross has caught my attention (as like the water vessels turned wine vessels in the Cana house). From the Cross, Jesus sees a vessel with common wine, and Jesus desired it. . He will take a sip of it almost as if a toast to the wedding union to be consummated in his next moment. The soldiers act sort of like the waiters at Cana. They do give a thirsty, dying man a small wish. Yet , it was no small wish. As He says “I thirst,” He really is meaning to say how Jesus is thirsty for souls, rather than the physical wine–but the cup will be symbolic of the chalice of suffering He has taken for our salvation. This is what Jesus desires, to finish what He started. They give the wine to Him (as verse 26 says). He tastes it, but for a few drops mostly, and He will leave the full ‘taste’ of His offering to the Father to judge. And doing so, Jesus bows His bead, and dies into full surrender to the Father.
At Cana, the headwaiter was asked to taste and inspect the new wine. He is amazed what He finds. In this story, see that you are to be amazed at what you find hiding in John’s Gospel. The Blood of Christ, of His Covenant of Love, with His Body, is what will make you new. Sacraments are here in this story (Matrimony, Baptism, Eucharist) to show you how they are for Christ’ body, His bride, the Church.
The drink of “The Hour” represents, at the start of John’s Gospel, as the connection to the New Wine of Covenant Love in Jesus. Jesus is the True Vine (John 15), the Wine to Sacrament maker at the Last Supper, at His Last Hour (John 11, 12), and He is the Sacrifice and Solution to a Big Problem (John 19.15) “The people cried out, Crucify Him! Crucify Him…. then Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified.” (John 19:16) By Jesus’ piercing, by His stripes—we are all made whole, so says the Isaiah prophecies.
On this side of the Empty Tomb, and upon Pentecost happening, we gather with Mary Triumphantly, to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Acts 2 and Luke 1 merge into Psalm 34 here!
We hear a Magnificat from Luke’s Gospel chapter 1 that sounds more like a Risen, Ascended and Glorified Jesus victory song of Mary. “My soul proclaims the greatness of The Lord… rejoices in God, my Savior… He has looked upon my littleness… but now the Almighty has done great things and holy is His Name…. He has cast down the mighty (those exalted in Self) from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly… and has filled the hungry (and thirsty) with good things… He has Mercy on those who revere Him…onto every generation…according to His Promise.”
These words of Mary certainly were ones that John the evangelist knew of her, too. Like the evangelist Luke, who put the Magnificat at his gospel opening at a prelude to the triumphant end of the Gospel, I think the Evangelist John is doing something similar in telling the Cana story in John 2. He is putting the victory of the story to its start. The Wedding Story at the start is the big hint of what good is coming.
At Cana, Mary knows that Jesus will answer her requests, both of the immediate and of the ultimate ones. Mary gets a glimpse (as John 2 shows) of the answer of Jesus for His Most Amazing Sign.
You get the notion that Mary got to see the whole plan revealed to her after her Assumption. John lets us in on that. In Revelations, written by John (who had cared for Mary until her Assumption), he sees in heaven the Woman clothed with the sun, as told in chapter 12, and then in chapter 14 he writes what he sees in his vision: Then I looked and there was the Lamb standing on Mt. Zion, and with Him 144,000 who had His Name and His Father’s Name written on them…. Then I heard a sound of rushing water (the Spirit?), and a sound of that like harpists playing…and singing of what seemed to be a new hymn before the Throne…by the ransomed of the earth….. Adding in chapter 15, John writes of an additional Sign (he loves those signs!): I saw in Heaven another sign, great and awe-inspiring…. as like something on a fiery sea of glass… and on it were standing those who had won the victory over the beast and its image…and they were holding God’s harps, singing the deliverance song of Moses with the Song of the Lamb: Great and wonderful are your works, Lord God the Almighty. Just and True are Your Ways, O King of the nations… You Alone are Holy! All the nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.”
And, most likely, Mary says to all of this:: ‘ Here is the Sign—and all the signs for you from Him.
But Mary would say in John 2 to start here: Do what Jesus asks of you. He will supply all your need and so much more. It is all revealed out to you. ‘Respond as a bride in love says I will or I do to her Love. He is Jesus.
Fr. John Barry