One characteristic feature of wedding ceremonies is the abundance of food and wine. Wedding planners are always careful about drinks because they add so much gusto and keep the ceremony going. While some people may not like to eat food in a wedding ceremony, almost everyone would need a drink even if it is water. In most weddings in Nigeria, someone is usually appointed to safeguard and manage the store where drinks are kept for the guests; nobody get into that store without permission. This caution significantly points to the need to have drinks flowing throughout the duration of the ceremony. In most places, the celebration continues until the last bottle is emptied!
Today we begin the 2nd Sunday in ordinary time of the year with the event at Cana in Galilee where Jesus changed water into wine. This event is a continuation of the Epiphany of the Lord. If we understand Epiphany as God’s manifestation of Himself in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ then the event at the wedding at Cana in Galilee becomes a continuation of the Epiphany which we saw also happening during the Baptism of the Lord. The new born King was shown to the Wise Men from the east they saw his divine splendor and worshipped him (Matt 2:11). At the Jordan after baptism the heavens opened, the Holy Spirit came down in form of a dove and the voice of the Father was heard confirming the divinity and mission of Christ (Matt 3:16-17). Today, the miracle at Cana in Galilee was productive of divine manifestation. St. John confirmed this when he said: “Jesus performed his first miracle in Cana in Galilee; he revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him”. (John 2:11).
From the inception of the narration of the event we were told that Jesus was invited to the wedding feast (as well as his mother and his disciples). The first point here is that JESUS WAS INVITED. Essentially Jesus would not come unless he is invited; he never forces himself in! This reminds us of the words in the gospel of John:”But as many as received Him,to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in his name”.(John 1:12). Sometimes we fail to invite Jesus yet we expect Him to do something new in our lives. The fact remains that Jesus can only save those who have invited him to come into their situations and circumstances. If Jesus was not invited to the wedding the account of a miracle at a wedding in Cana would not have been a reality. This also explains the words of the Saviour as recorded by John in the book of Revelation (3:20) where we see the Lord standing and knocking at the door and expecting us to open and have him invited for dinner not at our table but in your hearts.
The next stage of the narrative is the running out of wine during the wedding ceremony. What an embarrassment! What happened? Someone could ask. There may be many answers. The presence of Jesus, the new phenomenon in town could have attracted more guests to the wedding. No doubt after his baptism where some unusual things happened, many people began to follow Jesus. At the time people were wondering how he came to be a master with so much wisdom and power without going through their conventional rabbinical schools. It could be that people were following him to see what amazing things he could do. This in a sense explains why the wine ran out so fast. Now the mother of Jesus enters the scene “from nowhere”. Some scholars would say that it could have been her relation’s wedding and she was privy to what was going on in the kitchen and at the wine store. She discovered that the couple were about to experience shame on their wedding day. With this sensitivity she ran to Jesus as the last resort to tell him that the wine had finished. Jesus never had any dealing with wine as a trade so why did Mary come to him? She knew that Jesus Christ was capable of saving the situation with his divine powers.
There are so many things to learn from the scarcity of wine at the wedding mentioned in the narrative. Jesus came as the second Adam to undo the mistake of the first Adam through his redemptive act. Mary stands here too as the second Eve to show forth the proper work of a helper fit for the man. At the garden of Eden Eve approached Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit that led humanity to sin, gloom and shame but at the wedding at Cana Mary (the 2nd Eve) approached Jesus to save a situation that was about to lead the celebrants to gloom and shame. The celebrants at the wedding actually represent all of us. Sometimes in our lives we are at zero point in various ways; we are thrown into chaos, gloom, scarcity and bereft of all that makes life worthwhile. We are often lonely, disillusioned, confused, dejected and rejected. Sometimes it seems that the world will crash on our heads! Sometime we just lack that wine that should keep us going.
When Mary told his son about the scarcity of wine he replied “Dear Woman why do you involve me, my hour has not come!” Some critics have said that Jesus was rude to the mother but that is false. If we take a closer look at various points Jesus addressed a woman in public we see similarities like in these passages: (John 4:21, 8:10, 19:26, 20:31; Mt. 15:28; Lk. 13:12). Furthermore it was a courteous way of addressing a woman at the time. If we look at it side by side with the event at the Garden of Eden we see Jesus being more apt and sensible in the request of Mary than Adam who welcomed the idea of eating the forbidden fruit as soon as Eve mentioned it to him. Jesus did not after all refuse to do what the mother asked.
Now we pay attention to the miracle that took place. Before changing the water into wine, Mary gave the disciples an instruction that still stands till date. She said “do whatever he tells you”. We remember that the problem at the Garden of Eden was that of disobedience; that was actually what brought humanity into disconnection with God (Genesis 3). Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s instruction concerning the fruit at the middle of the Garden. Here at the middle of the wedding celebration and faced with scarcity of wine, Mary enjoined the disciples (representing us) to pay attention to what Jesus tells them. This means that without obedience it will be difficult to receive miracles. Now before the miracle again the people had to bring something; six stone jars of water! It was only at the creation that something came out of nothing. God cannot affect miracle from nothing; you must have something with you at least a little faith (Mark 11:22). Elijah was able to feed alongside the widow and her son for the whole duration of the famine because the widow brought a little oil and flour (1Kings 17:14). Elisha was able to assist the widow whose husband died with debts from the little oil she had in her house (2 Kings 4:2-4). Our Lord Jesus Christ was able to feed the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish (John 6:11). So for any miracle to happen there must be something present. At the wedding they had six stone jars each filled to the brim with about 30 gallons of water and with this present Jesus changed the water into wine and it was the finest of wine. On that day they had 684 litres of wine (30 gallons X 6 Jars X 3.8 litres). If they had the wine in our modern day 750ml bottles then they could have had 900 bottle of wine coming in the midst of despair and hopelessness.
We generally have so much to learn from the event that took place at Cana in Galilee: inviting God into our lives (as Jesus was invited), being sensitive to the needs of other (like Mary sensed the shame that could follow the scarcity of wine), being able to do the will of God at all time (like Mary asked the disciples to do whatever Jesus asked them to do), coming to God with something upon which He would work (like they provided six jars of water).
Furthermore this wedding at Cana points to our marriage with God which is all about being one and connected with Him. In the first reading the Prophet Isaiah spoke extensively about God’s reconnection with his people using nuptial terms. Among other things the prophet maintained that our land will be married. But married to whom? It is here that we see God taking us as special bride to himself. This them is taken up again in the New Testament with Jesus Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as his bride (Matt 25:1-13; Jn 3:27-30; Rev. 19:7). This marriage between Christ and his Church is productive of unity in diversity. This is where the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor.12:4-11) which we read as the second reading draws its strength. For St. Paul we are different parts making up a body and to each a special function is given. We are simply instructed that as members of the body of Christ we should be responsive to our particular callings and to contribute our quota in the growth of the church. Our unity as members of the Church is reflective of the marriage union where a man and a woman becomes one.
We are admonished to take an active look into our communities and our families to know how effectively we are responding to the call to be united with one another and with Christ our head. Let us be attentive to the lessons from Cana as we conduct our lives and affairs in the New Year.
Happy Sunday and have a wonderful week ahead.