2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time 2016
As a young man marries a virgin, so shall your Builder marry you;and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.
It is surely significant that the first recorded miracle of our Lord took place at a wedding feast in a small village, Cana of Galilee, near his home town. This miracle is recorded only in the Gospel of St. John, and it obviously has great importance for the great evangelist who was Our Lord’s closest disciple. John is called the beloved, and it is to him that Jesus personally entrusted His blessed mother when he departed from this world. But on this happy day in the village of Cana, Jesus would perform what John calls the first of his signs, a great miracle that is so filled with meaning, so revealing of his divine power, that we are told that his disciples would from that moment put their faith in him in a way that up till then they had not been able to do.
Certainly this first miracle or sign of Jesus is a wonderful display of His divine power which reveals to his disciples the glory of Jesus. But John, and the Church afterwards, will come to see this first sign of the Lord as much more than simply a witness to His divinity intended to ignite the faith of his disciples. When John says that it was the first of his signs, he is speaking about signs that also contain for faith a whole world of meaning related to His mission in this world, the work He came to accomplish for the Father, our salvation.
Notice, however, that to understand this deeper meaning of the sign 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. Note that 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 seem to suspect the cause being Jesus. Only those who already have some initial faith, his true disciples, are moved by the miracle to do more than just marvel at it – they now truly marvel at Him and put their faith in Him. Then the miracle will draw their faith to go deeper into His person and mission.
What then does the faith of St. John the evangelist enable him to see in this miracle that causes him to give it such prominence in His Gospel, right at the very outset of his account of the public life of Jesus?
First, John and the Church that receives His Gospel will see this miracle as a sign of the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old and the precise mission of Jesus in transforming, or converting, the Old into the New. Right from the beginning of his public life, then, Jesus wants His Church, represented here by Our Lady and the Apostles, to understand that the New Covenant, while in continuity with the Old Covenant is absolutely superior to it, and that He, Jesus, is the one who transforms the old into the New, just as he changed the water into wine.
We must understand that those large water jars were also 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 not just upon Law, but more importantly upon the mercy and the Grace of God. The Old Covenant was itself, like the first wine and the water, certainly a good gift from God, and necessary, as water is necessary for life and wine for a joyful banquet. But here 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 mercy and grace, just as he transformed the water into wine.
The second aspect of the miracle, as we have already noted, is that entry into the new Covenant begins by one putting one’s faith in Jesus, and by 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; only in response to the gift do the disciples first put their faith in Him.
The third aspect of this miracle has to do with its specific context or 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.@ Thus, by performing his inaugural miracle precisely at a wedding feast, Jesus points to the truth about the surprising and intimate relationship between God and the people in the New Covenant, that is, between Himself and His Church. God, through the mediation of Christ, becomes the Bridegroom, and it is a union so close, so intimate, that only the intimacy of a 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, who in Him is also the Bride of the whole Trinity, 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 can only be truly 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 sacramental meaning for the Kingdom of God, a meaning which Christian Matrimony now signifies before the world.
Finally, deep faith will take 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, perhaps far beyond what they had already provided for themselves, or they would not have run out. The Old Law, in a sense, has now run its appointed course, run out, and it 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 receive it. His Kingdom shall be a Kingdom for all 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.
This, then, is the invitation implicit in the first sign that Jesus performs for his disciples, come one and all to the wedding feast of God and His Bride. Only Faith can understand and accept this invitation to the banquet of Life. May we too, like the disciples that day so long ago, have the wisdom to put our faith in Him, so we too may enjoy the abundance of God’s wedding feast that never ends, the feast of the Lamb and His Bride, all of us in Holy Mother Church.