On the Wedding at Cana
[Is.62:1-5; 1Cor.12:4-11; Jn.2:1-11]
The Church is full of signs. Some are obvious, like signboards on the street, but many are subtle and easily missed.
There’s the bread and wine and the oils. Fire and holy water. Altar and ambo, and the tabernacle. And our vestments tell a story. The colour green we use today represents life and abundance and God’s kingdom growing quietly but surely.
Our Gospel readings since Christmas have also been full of signs and symbols. Through these readings, God has been revealing himself to us in several different ways.
On Christmas Day, when Jesus was born, lying in a manger as a homeless refugee, God revealed his solidarity with the poor, the vulnerable and the needy of our world. His first visitors were poor shepherds who were social outcasts. They recognised Jesus as God and worshipped him with hearts full of joy.
Then, at the Epiphany, when the Wise Men from the East journeyed to Bethlehem, God revealed himself to foreigners and strangers from remote parts of the world. They also came to worship Jesus, bringing him gifts and again there was happiness and joy.
Last week, at Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, God once again revealed something of himself. As the dove descends on Jesus, he’s filled with the Holy Spirit and God says, ‘this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’. Jesus is empowered and endorsed by his Father, and he then begins his public ministry of healing, teaching and saving souls.
And now in today’s Gospel, God reveals himself once again when Jesus performs his first miracle, turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Many people think this miracle’s simply a wonderful event. However, it’s more than that, and that’s why John doesn’t use the word ‘miracle’ in his Gospel. Instead, he calls them ‘signs’, and he uses this word 16 times in the first part of his Gospel. Not surprisingly, some people call the first half of John’s Gospel the ‘Book of Signs’.
At the end of chapter 20, John says: ‘These words are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you
The miracles of Jesus are signposts pointing to him and guiding our belief in him.
may have life in his name” (20:30). And so, the miracles of Jesus are really signposts pointing to him and guiding our belief in him.
John includes 7 miracles in his Gospel, each carefully chosen to point us to Jesus and to reveal something about God’s power and presence.
According to John, changing the water into wine was Jesus’ first sign. Here God reveals his power to transform something ordinary into something very special. He also reveals his deep interest in the affairs of ordinary people, by ensuring the success of this wedding celebration. And of course, God reveals how generously he blesses his people.
Think about it – there were 6 stone jars, each holding ‘20 to 30 gallons’. That means a total of between 450 and 680 litres of excellent wine – the equivalent of 600 to 900 bottles. For a village party! God was indeed hugely generous.
Some have wondered why Jesus would ‘waste’ a miracle on providing wine at a wedding. But all Jesus’ miracles had a purpose beyond relieving immediate suffering: they were a display of God’s power and glory, and they demonstrated his great love for ordinary people.
At a deeper level, too, these signs teach us about Jesus and help us to build our relationship with him.
At the start of the wedding celebration, Jesus’ disciples were following him for their own reasons. However, once they witnessed this miracle, they really believed he was someone very special.
So, not only does Jesus transform water into wine, he also transforms his disciples from being mere companions into those who believe in him. He changed them, and they will never be the same again.
And so he changes us, too. If we follow the signs and really get to know Jesus, we will never be the same again, either.