2nd Sunday of ordinary time
AAs a young man marries a virgin, so shall your Builder marry you@
The first recorded miracle of our Lord took place, we are told, at a wedding feast in a small village near his home town, Cana of Galilee. This miracle is recorded only in the Gospel of St. John, and it obviously has a great significance for the great Evangelist who was Our Lord’s closest disciple, the beloved to whom he entrusted His blessed mother when he departed from this world. But on this day in the village of Cana he would perform what John calls the first of his signs, a miracle so powerful and so filled with meaning, so revealing of his divine power, that his disciples would put their faith in him in a way that up till then they had not been able to do.
However, this miracle, this first sign of Jesus, as wonderful as it is simply as a marvelous display of divine power revealing to his disciples, as John says, the glory of Jesus, is not simply a display of his power and glory to deepen their faith in Him. John says that it was the first of his signs, signs that also contain for faith a world of meaning related to His mission in this world, the work He came to accomplish for the Father, our salvation. Notice, however, that this deeper meaning requires at least some initial faith in Jesus in order for it to become a grounds for “putting one’s faith” in Him, as did his apostles after this miracle. Nothing is said about the stewards who witnessed the miracle putting their faith in Jesus, and the head steward seems only concerned with the quality of the wine and does not even suspect the cause being Jesus. Only those who already have some initial faith, his disciples, are moved by the miracle to do more than just marvel at it – they now truly believed in Him, and the miracle invited their faith to go deeper into His person and mission.
What then does the evangelist see, by his faith in this miracle, that causes St. John to give it such prominence in His Gospel, right at the outset of his account of the public life of Jesus?
First, John, and the Church that receives His Gospel, sees this miracle as the sign of the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old, as well as the mission of Jesus in transforming, converting, the Old into the New. Right from the beginning, then, Jesus wants His Church, represented here by Our Lady and the Apostles, to understand that the New Covenant is absolutely superior to the Old, and that He, Jesus, is the one who transforms the old into the New, just as he changed the water into wine. Those water jars were used for the ablutions which were so essential for the law of Israel, and they thus signify here the Law itself. The Old Covenant was based upon the Law, and Jesus had come into the world to transform that Old Covenant into a Covenant based upon the mercy and the Grace of God. The Old Covenant was itself, like the first wine and the water, a good thing from God, and necessary, as water is necessary for life and wine for a joyful banquet. But the water is made into something much greater than itself by Jesus who reestablishes the covenant, indeed recreates the covenant into a work of God’s grace, just as he transformed the water into wine.
The second point we have already noted, and that is that the entry into the new Covenant begins by one putting one’s faith in Jesus, and accepting the Mercy of God and the Grace of God that comes to us only through His mediation, just as the water became wine only through his mediation, and afterwards the disciples put their faith in Him.
The third aspect of this miracle has to do with its background. It took place, we are told, at a wedding feast. The significance of this will not be lost on faith. The Kingdom of God, said Isaiah in today’s first reading, will be like a great marriage:
“For the LORD delights in you and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.” Is. 62 4-5
Note the beauty of this prophecy of the Messianic Kingdom: “as a young man marries a virgin, your builder shall marry you.@ And lest we hesitate to identify the builder of the kingdom, Isaiah goes on Aas a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you.@ By performing his inaugural miracle at a wedding feast, Jesus points to the truth about the relationship between God and the people in the new covenant, that is, between Himself and His Church. He is the Bridegroom and it is a union so close, so intimate, that only holy marriage can be its natural sign in this world. God has begun the eschatological or Heavenly wedding banquet on this day in Cana, at a human wedding feast. The Father has given Jesus His Eternal Bride, and this Bride comes to him, now, on that day, by “putting their faith in Him.”
From now on, if one is to understand the Kingdom of God, the Messianic Kingdom, the Church, it must be understood as Jesus’ Body and Bride; and from now on if one would fully understand marriage in its Christian form, it must be understood in terms of its significance for the Kingdom of God, which Christian marriage now signifies before the world.
Finally, faith will make note of the super abundance of this miracle. Each of those six ablution jars held from 15 to 25 gallons of water! That means Jesus produced somewhere between 90 and 150 gallons of wine for that feast, surely beyond what they had already provided for themselves, or they would not have run out. The Old Law, in a sense, has run out and must yield to the superabundance of the New. See what a superabundant grace this is for the couple and their guests! So too is the Grace of Christ superabundant for those who put their faith in Him. His miracle reveals the Divine presence in Him not only by the power displayed, but also by the generosity of the gift, which reflects the glory of God who makes His goodness overflow on His creation. So too is it to be with the New Covenant. There shall be mercy and grace overflowing on this earth, salvation in abundance for as many as have the faith to drink it in. His Kingdom shall be a Kingdom for the nations, the whole of humanity is invited to the great wedding feast where the wine of God’s mercy and goodness never runs out.
Come, then, to the wedding feast of God. This is the invitation implicit in the first sign that Jesus performs for his disciples. Only Faith understands and accepts this invitation to the banquet of Life. May we have the wisdom to put our faith in Him, like the disciples that day, so we may enjoy forever the abundance of God’s wedding feast of the Lamb and His Bride, Our Holy Mother the Church.