‘There was a wedding in Cana in Galilee.’ And Jesus was there.
This is the Gospel of John, the Gospel with depth upon depth.
- ‘There was a wedding…’ And Jesus was there. There’s no mention in the story of who the bride and bridegroom were. Perhaps that might distract us. Perhaps they’re any man and any woman. The point is his presence. It is a sign of his ‘gracing’ presence in every true marriage between baptised people. Christ comes to consecrate the love of man and woman for each other. Marriage is a natural thing and a natural social institution, but when Christians marry ‘in the Lord’ and ‘before the Church’, it’s as if they ‘invite’ ‘Jesus and his disciples’ to the wedding. Christ raises marriage to a higher power, as it were. He turns its water into wine. It becomes a sacrament, human love is caught up into divine love, and the couple become a sacrament themselves of the fruitful love between Christ and the Church.
That’s a first lesson from today’s Gospel. But it takes us further too.
- ‘There was a wedding in Cana in Galilee.’ It’s not a coincidence this is one of the first incidents of Christ’s public life. The 1st reading from the Old Testament gives the game away really. Isaiah is speaking to Jerusalem at a low point in her history. God, we can say, is speaking to all of us: ‘No longer are you to be named “Forsaken”, nor your land “Abandoned”, but you shall be called “My Delight”, and your land “The Wedded”; for the Lord takes delight in you and your land will have its wedding. Like a young man marrying a virgin, so will the one who built you wed you, and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will your God rejoice in you.’ If we want to grasp what God is about, this kind of language, this imagery, can really help. On page 1 of Genesis, we have God blessing man and woman and saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’ On page 2, we have the story of the creation of the woman and the man saying, ‘This at last is bone of my bone,’ and so forth, and the writer adding, ‘This is why a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and the two become one flesh.’ Then come those stories of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Rachel and Jacob. Then the prophets talk of the Lord taking Israel, Jerusalem, Sion as his Bride and she becoming a mother. At the heart of the Old Testament, there’s that astonishing love-poem the Song of Songs. And then at the end of the New Testament, the whole Bible, there’s the wedding feast of the Lamb, and the heavenly Jerusalem dressed as a bride. ‘There was a wedding in Cana in Galilee…and this was the first of the signs given by Jesus.’ We’d have to be really thick not to get it! ‘Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?’, Jesus asks in another place (Mk 2:19). God himself is a communion of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He wants to share this with us. He wants to enter into intimacy with us, enter into our lives and have ours enter into his. That is what he is doing through his Son: his life, death and resurrection. ‘There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee.’ Christ is coming to marry the Bride the Father has chosen for him, the Bride the Holy Spirit secretly prepares: the Church, and the self of each of us. Every Mass is the sacramental sign of this. ‘This is my Body given for you…this is the chalice of my Blood.’ Here’s his act of love present in a ritual. And when, spiritually, sacramentally, we eat his Body and drink his Blood, we become ‘one body, one spirit’ with him. It’s the wedding breakfast, says St Bernard, looking forward to the supper of heaven, the consummation.
- ‘There was a wedding in Cana in Galilee… The mother of Jesus was there…When they ran out of wine….the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine”’. What wine is this? The Bible is as full of wine as well as weddings, literal wine, symbolic wine. Jesus today is the purveyor of fine wines: ‘you have kept the best wine till now’, says the steward, and somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of it – for a village wedding! Did anyone go home sober? ‘And this was the first of his signs.’ What is this wine a sign of? I think the 2nd reading gives a clue. It’s from ch. 12 of 1 Corinthians. St Paul is listing different gifts of the Holy Spirit poured out on the early Christians in the wake of Pentecost. These are wonderful things. But then he says, there is something even better. Ch. 12 becomes the famous ch.13 – often read at weddings – the hymn to charity, love, agape, the love that the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts when we are at peace with God. This is the wine of the New Covenant, the wine this Bridegroom provides. It is the wine of Christ’s love. It was poured out as blood on the cross and flows from his side into our chalices and into our lives when we receive him spiritually and sacramentally. Wine gladdens man’s heart, says the Psalm. Nothing so gladdens our hearts as a share in the love of Christ. Nothing, in a wine-like way, so enhances and enriches our lives, takes us beyond ourselves, changes our water into wine, as preferring nothing to the love of Christ. As St Bernard says, we can’t always feel ‘the grace of devotion, the fervour of love,’ just as couples don’t always live on a romantic, erotic high. This wine flows deeper, more steadily and practically. Really, the Year of Mercy is all about this.
Today we’re asked to remember refugees and migrants. Some 100 refugees will come to Aberdeen over this year, some this month. They’re being accommodated in the Kittybrewster and Sunnybank areas. The main need seems to be, not wine, but women’s and children’s clothes, cleaning products and toiletries. The organization Instant Neighbours is fronting this. If you want to give, there are 2 drop off points: Home Comforts (next door to Hobby Craft in Union Square) and their St Machar unit on the St Machar roundabout.
‘They have no wine.’ Those are very poignant words. They are a prayer. Mary, the mother of mercy, now at the side of her risen Son, is still saying them. Our own wine can fail, God knows, and there are so many animosities. Charity grows cold. Let’s keep ours warm, keep drinking it, here and in prayer, asking Jesus and Mary for the wine of their love. And let’s share it in works of mercy.
‘There was a wedding in Cana in Galilee.’ We are all invited.