A Simple Wedding, a Remarkable Woman and a New Wine
by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you." Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, "Fill the jars with water." So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter." So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from - although the servers who had drawn the water knew -, the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.
The Wedding at Cana is a marvelous event at the start of Jesus' public ministry that is riveted with mystery and meaning for Christians. The fact that Jesus performs the first of His signs at a wedding is no mere coincidence, for marriage is a central part of the renewal of humanity that Jesus comes to inaugurate. Furthermore, Jesus knows that wine is a symbol for joy in the Old Testament, so when He transforms the water into wine He clearly indicates how His Father wants to restore joy to all people by restoring marriage to its original dignity. His saving mission includes offering couples an abundance of grace flowing from the Cross to experience the joy of becoming truly one, to persevere in good times and in bad; to transform suffering into saving grace and to build a house for God in this world. Christ came to renew marriage by restoring it to its original splendor and filling couples with supernatural grace to live fully the life God intended for them.
Mary's role in Christ's first sign is no mere coincidence either. John the Evangelist mentions her presence at the wedding first. The statement which follows, "Jesus and his disciples were also invited," suggests that Mary is going to play a huge part in the story that follows. Mary does two things that day which forever typify her role in salvation history. First, she observes a need and she does something about it. She is the first to recognize that the couple is running out of wine, a serious embarrassment for the couple and their families. Mary has a mother's radar and always is sensitive to the needs of those around her. In the end, she arranges for the delivery of an abundance of good wine.
Secondly, Mary points people to the One Who solves all real problems. She will play this role for the rest of history. After perceiving the need, she turns to the Good Shepherd. She points to her Son and says to the waiters what she says to every human being, "Do whatever he tells you." He may look to you like an ordinary man, but He is the eternal Son of God Who came to dwell among us, bring us God's gift of salvation, and show us the way to the Father. He will take care of you. He is the answer to your biggest questions.
Finally, the wedding story includes a miraculous batch of "good wine." Jesus provided for the couple, a precious gift at a difficult moment. It was a very generous act of charity. However, for Christians, we see in this miracle a sign of a much more precious gift and of the greatest act of charity that the world has ever known. The miracle of the changing of water into wine is a precursor of the Last Supper, when Christ changes bread into His body and wine into His precious blood. The offering of His life to the Father on the cross and of His body and blood to us in the Mass is the source and summit of the Christian life. The Wedding at Cana, the first of Jesus' signs, points to the greatest of His signs, the Eucharist.
The Wedding at Cana is very rich in beauty and mystery. It highlights that Christ wanted to renew marriage with grace and power, that Mary will forever teach us the path of charity and the path to her Son, and that Christ was preparing the world for His most precious gift, the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation.
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