[COLUMN] The wedding at Cana

There is so much richness of meanings in this Sunday’s (January 16) Gospel that it would be difficult to point out just one particular thrust. However, it’s understandable because the Gospel of John is known to be full of signs and symbols that represent profound theological insights.

But what impresses me about this story are its circumstances and details.

We know that the scene is a wedding feast. In Palestine, a wedding feast is a notable occasion that could last for more than one day. It usually would take place in the late evening. After the ceremony, the bride and groom would be taken to their new home, which means they would not go away for their honeymoon. Instead, family members, friends, and neighbors would come and visit them at home. They would treat them as king and queen and wish them well. This week-long festivity and joy would be a supreme occasion in a life of poverty and hard work.

Jesus, along with his mother, relatives, and his newly formed disciples, shared in the joy of the newly married couple. And what a circumstance that Jesus came into during the wedding feast. They ran out of wine! In any Jewish feast, wine is essential. “Without wine, there is no joy, the Rabbis would say.

Then Jesus’ mother came to rescue the newlyweds and their family from embarrassment. Believing that her son could do something, she told Jesus about this shortage of wine. Who else could she turn to but her son?

Jesus responded, “Woman, how does this concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”

Now, the way that Jesus addressed his mother seemed discourteous. But among the Jews then, William Barclay explains, this phrase was a common conversational phrase. When they uttered it angrily and sharply, it did indicate complete agreement and reproach. But it showed not so much reproach but misunderstanding when it was spoken gently. It meant, “Don’t worry; you don’t quite understand what is going on; leave things to me, and I will settle them my way.” Jesus was telling Mary to leave things to him to have his way of dealing with the situation. (Barclay, The Gospel of John, Volume I).

The rest of the story tells us that Jesus did his first miracle. He turned the water  in six stone jars into wine, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. The miracle resulted in an abundant wine for a week-long wedding celebration! For John, this means that when the grace of Jesus comes to us there is enough and to spare for all. “No need on earth can exhaust the grace of Christ; there is glorious superabundance in it.” (Barclay) 

The story reveals to us other spiritual and theological insights.

First, Jesus understood the need for a happy occasion. And so, he did not withhold his power to do something. He would always share in a joyful feast like a wedding. He wanted people to celebrate life even in challenging circumstances.

That’s the same Jesus for us today. Amid the pandemic, we should not lose our joy as Christians—the joy we felt last Christmas. Our Christian faith will impact people’s lives if we exude inner joy and hope in our lives even amid the trying times. It’s not to say that we would not show any sadness and fear; it’s just that we remain positive or hopeful.

Second, Mary put her trust in her Son, Jesus. She did not understand what Jesus was going to do, yet she believed in him so much that she asked the serving folk to do whatever Jesus told them to do. Again, we need to have Mary’s faith; we have to turn to Jesus and trust in his power to save us, especially when it’s difficult to understand life’s challenges.

Third, Jesus’ response to Mary, “My hour has not yet come,” reveals to us that he came for a definite purpose and mission to fulfill his Father’s wish and will. All through his life, he went steadily towards the hour for which he knew that he had come into the world.

William Barclay says, “It is not only Jesus who came into this world to fulfill the purpose of God. As someone has said: ‘Every man is a dream and an idea of God.’ We, too, must think not of our own wishes and our own desire, but of the purpose for which God  sent us into the world.”

May we lead joyful, faith-filled, and purposeful lives!

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.

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