The Wedding Feast at Cana
The wedding feast at Cana – John 2:1-11
Today (and tomorrow) is the 2nd Sunday in “Ordinary” time.
Ordinary Time begins on the Monday after the first Sunday after January 6 (the Feast of the Epiphany). In most years, that Sunday is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. That’s why this is the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary time, not the 1st!
The first thing to note is what we mean by “Ordinary” time.
We use the word ordinary to mean something not special, not unusual, an everyday event with no great significance.
In the liturgy, the word “Ordinary” means “Ordered”, something taken one after the other in a regular sequence.
This year, Year C, the gospels for Sunday are taken from Luke. It is the year of Luke. Jesus’ story is told week by week from Luke’s understanding of “gospel” – meaning “good news”. It is strange, therefore that the first Gospel reading in “Ordinary” time comes from John!
The clue comes from verse 11: “This was the first of the signs given by Jesus”
The reading is so packed full of significance that it is hard to highlight one against another, and it would take some time!
The setting for the story is the “Wedding Feast at Cana in Galilee”. In the Hebrew world, and still today in the Middle East and India, wedding feasts were (and are) huge events lasting several days. In the Old Testament, wedding and banquet imagery is used to symbolize the messianic era, the coming of the Messiah. That’s the significance of the first reading from Isaiah, where the bridegroom rejoices in his bride and “the Land of the Lord” will no longer be forsaken or abandoned.
The structure of John 2:1-11 is typical of a miracle story: the setting is established (verses 1-2), a need arises (verses 3-5), a miracle addresses that need (verses 6-8), and there is a response to that miracle (verses 9-11).
It would take some time to explore all of these aspects so let’s just highlight one or two!
It is often said that Jesus is disrespectful to his mother (John never uses Mary’s name in his gospel). If one of our sons said to Marion: “What is that to me, woman!” the best they could expect would be severe earache! In ancient times, however, perhaps ironically, such an address is regarded as common and Jesus often addresses women in that way elsewhere. It is, perhaps, unusual that he talks to his mother this way.
Maybe Jesus is, in some sense, taken unawares by his mother’s comment about the wine. “My hour has not yet come” he says.
However, the miracle, the first of his “signs” follows. After many of Jesus’ subsequent miracles throughout his life, his followers believe in him after the miracle but Mary believes in the efficacy of Jesus’ word before. She trusts that whatever he says will work. Mary was Jesus’ first disciple but recall Jesus’ words to Thomas: “Is it because you've seen me that you have believed? How blessed are those who have never seen me and yet have believed!” That includes you and me. We, most often, believe before we can see the signs.
Some people think that John now descends into comedy. The quantity of wine has been estimated at about 180 gallons – nearly 1,000 bottles!
For John, Jesus’ miracles are “signs” that reveal the salvation, abundance, and new life now present in the world through Jesus, revealing Jesus’ glory as God’s Son through whom salvation enters the world. God, through Jesus, gives us his all!
It is no coincidence that, in the full sentence which begins the gospel, we read “On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee”. Surely a reference to the resurrection?
This is where the 2nd reading from Paul to the Corinthians comes in and where we fit into Jesus’ story today. Paul tells us that one and the same Spirit distributes gifts to different people as He chooses.
There is no one exempt from the story of salvation. We are the eyes and ears and feet and hands of Jesus today. We are the presence of Jesus to each other. We may not be able to perform miracles but the “signs” are still there if we believe in what we do in Jesus name.