Gospel of John 2: 1-11
January 20, 2019
You are wished “A Very Happy and Blessed New Year!” And, appropriately, that is exactly what today’s Gospel is all about: New Beginnings and New Blessings.
Sometimes “the new” comes in with a big bang– like fireworks heralding in the New Year. Other times, it comes quietly – like an envelope in the mailbox. How pleased we are when we see an invitation – for a wedding, Baptism, birthday, or graduation, just to name a few. It means a time of gathering, socializing, rejoicing, celebrating and honoring.
In today’s Gospel we attend a village wedding feast in Cana with Mary, Jesus, and the disciples who were with him that day. Jesus, his mother, Mary, and the disciples were not “just invited” to this wedding, and they certainly were not “drop-ins.” There is a God-intended purpose for this day. God has a grand plan that He is putting into place. He is re-newing his relationship with His children – to bring them closer to him and affirm His love for them.
He sent us Jesus to bring this about, and in today’s Gospel story the plan unfolds during a wedding feast. The perfect setting – in a village, in a home, in ordinary lives where a special event is taking place and love is present, relationships are affirmed, and joy is abundant.
This is what we would expect of Jesus – to be in the middle of our lives and celebrating with God’s people. It was an important event and one of expectation – good food, good wine, and good company. What wasn’t expected was the possibility of a social disaster.
Wine was an important part of the people’s everyday lives and essential for feasts and special occasions. “Without wine,” the Rabbis said, “there is no joy!” Failure to provide it, especially on important occasions, would have been an insult to the guests, bring shame to the host, and in this case, a terrible humiliation to the bride and groom. Notwithstanding the fact that the wedding would have ended abruptly. No wine – no party! Hospitality in the east, at that time, was a sacred duty and still is very important today.
Two thousand years later wine, still important, is often a part of our parties. We can relate. How would you feel, as a host or hostess, if everything was going well, and all of a sudden, the wine ran out. We would apologize – “I’m sorry, we have no more wine, but our water is very tasty,” This isn’t a satisfactory answer or solution to the immediate problem.
Mary is the first one to see trouble looming on the horizon. The wine supply is getting very low. Instinctively, she turns to Jesus and tells her son, “They have no wine.” He responds, “What is that to you and me ma’am? My hour has not yet come.” Here Jesus is was referring to His role as the bridegroom. In many books of the New Testament, including the four Gospels, Jesus is referred to as the bridegroom. His coming starts the feast…and the church is his bride.
However, His time has not yet come to fulfill that part of the mission. Yet, He does what his Mother asks (and remember God’s will is still being fulfilled.)
Does the dialogue between Mary and Jesus sound familiar to you at all? Have you ever asked your child to do something and they grumble at your request? But you have hope and a little faith that they will follow through (without too many reminders). Not so with Mary. She has complete and total faith in Jesus; even though she didn’t know what He would do, she trusted that He would do the right thing. She immediately turned to the servants and told them to do whatever Jesus said.
The Gospel story continues…there were six stone water jars, each containing 20 or 30 gallons of water for the guests for the purpose of purification. The Jews had many rules and regulations to guide their lives and their relationship to God; following them exactly was done to seek His approval. In cleansing and repentance, water was a way to God.
The jars must have been put to use because Jesus commands them to “Fill the jars with water.” They did so, and It must have taken a great deal of effort. After the jars were filled, Jesus told them to take some of the water and bring it to the Chief Steward.
Can you imagine what these servants might have been thinking? I can envision them doing a mental “eye roll.” These men probably thought that this was a
ridiculous request. Interestingly enough, though, they obeyed without questioning it or even knowing why they were doing it!
The Chief Steward, the man supposedly in charge, tasted the water that had become by then. He must have been surprised by the servants coming to him and by the quality of the wine, but He doesn’t know where it came from and doesn’t think to ask. The servants, again, were silent on the subject, but they knew. The steward, in his excitement, called the bridegroom and complimented him on his wisdom of keeping the best wine until last. We are not told what the bridegroom thought or said. (If John does not mention it in the narrative, then it is not considered important. to him.) What do you think about the steward and how he fulfilled his responsibilities?
The Chief Steward is a person in charge of something that has been put in his care. In this case, the Chief Steward was in charge of the party. Ordering and keeping a watch on supplies, seating guests, making sure that things ran smoothly. However, if it weren’t for Jesus, the day would have become rough, difficult – filled with tears, accusations, and disappointment – all because the steward:
1. Didn’t order enough wine.
2. Didn’t notice that the wine was running low.
3. Wasn’t in the vicinity to be informed.
4. Had no idea where the new wine came from (and then complimented the host (who didn’t know where the wine came from either!)
Disaster was diverted. All’s well that ends well. It wouldn’t have – if the first of Jesus’ signs, the first miracle, hadn’t taken place. A new day had begun in our relationship with God – from a stern unknown, “I Am Who I Am” to a loving,
Jesus was the New Wine sent to God’s people, and symbolically it would have
converted to about 180 gallons of wine! What John is conveying is that there is enough for all and then some. The New Wine of Jesus is the joy of knowing God, loving Him, being loved by Him, and receiving the gift of Grace – freely given, enough for all and then some. Fear and judgment no longer a part of worshipping Him.
But wait, we are a part of this story too. What role do we play and where do we go from here? Mary had confidence and faith in her son and acted upon it; Jesus had
complete faith in God and performed a miracle, his disciples had faith in Him, and
the servants were obedient and followed Mary’s instructions to listen to what Jesus told them to do, which they did. No questions asked. The steward – well the steward did not take care of what was entrusted to him. And because of that there could have been unfavorable consequences.
Mary, the mother of God, (the Gospel of John only refers to her in this manner), points us to what is expected of us at this feast and in life: Have faith in Jesus, even though we may not fully understand – trust in Him to do the right and perfect thing. Listen to Him, for His words are true. Act upon his words by serving and obeying. And most important, feel the joy of it!
As we leave this Wedding feast; in Cana today, we know that God’s plan continued to unfold through Jesus – until that day came when His mission was fulfilled on the cross, to that time when “His hour had come.” The Bridegroom has arrived. Separation from God is no more. New Beginnings and new Blessings.
And now, let us rejoice!