|January 16-17, 2016, Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C|
Mary said to them: Do whatever he tells you.
Whenever I preach on this Gospel story at a wedding I make a point to let the groom know that Mary is not speaking these words to his bride!
We gather today to celebrate the 3rd of the 3 great manifestations or epiphanies that in ancient times were all celebrated together on the Feast of the Epiphany. So in the previous two weeks we celebrated the visit of the magi and then the baptism of our Lord.
Some of our Protestant brothers and sisters fault Catholics for praying to Mary. This is a wonderful scripture passage to point to in that case; it clearly states the appropriateness and effectiveness of asking for Mary's intercession.
Like the other two events, the wedding feast at Cana is full of signs and symbols that help us understand who Jesus is. I would like to point out two of them.
The first is the setting of the wedding banquet. Marriage is the most often used metaphor or analogy in the scriptures to describe God's relationship with his people. Heaven or the kingdom of God is often represented by a wedding banquet. Under the covenant of law, God is the bridegroom and the people Israel are his bride as we heard in that first reading from Isaiah. In the Christian scriptures, Christ is the bridegroom and the Church is his bride. When this same metaphor is used so many times throughout scripture, we probably should pay attention to what it is trying to reveal to us about God and how God relates to us. Very often when we hear God referred to as a "he" or "him" in prayer it is to express that notion rather than some antiquated exclusionary language to be avoided.
The second is the symbolism of the water and the wine. Many commentators point to the water in the jars as representing the covenant of Mosaic Law, and so when Jesus turns that water into wine he is inaugurating the covenant of love. This contrast between the covenant of the law and the covenant of love is expressed vividly in this story. A legal approach to anything usually winds up with us trying to figure out what is the minimum we can do without breaking the law. In terms of our Catholic faith, it has been expressed in notions such as: "how late can I get to mass and still have it count?" Or thinking that eternal life is gained by simply not breaking the commandments. Love on the other hand focuses on how much I can do for my beloved. The stone jars held the water for the ritual washing required by the law. Each stone jar held between 20 and 30 gallons so Jesus turned that into 120 to 180 gallons of the best wine that the steward had ever tasted. That is the abundance of love.
So what does this mean to us other than giving us some insight into who Jesus is? I think it speaks directly to the spirit of this Year of Mercy we are in. Mercy is not just about forgiveness of sin or debt. God's mercy very often results in filling us with an abundance of joy and the opportunity to go beyond our shortcomings to spread the joy of the Gospel, the wine of the heavenly wedding banquet. If we really understand how God desires to fill us with his mercy, and we really understand how amazingly God does that, as with Jesus turning the water to wine, how would we celebrate Eucharist?
I suggest we would make sure we arrived in time to really leave the problems and burdens at the door. We would perhaps read the readings before hand to make sure we got the most out of their proclamation. We would lift our voices with each other to give thanks and praise to this God who gives us mercy. And perhaps we would enter fully into the reception of Communion. By that I mean receiving both Christ's sacred body and blood. Yes it is sufficient to receive just one but if the point is to become more fully the body of Christ, we must do as Jesus did at that wedding feast.
The words of Christ at the last supper when He instituted the sacrament of Eucharist are voiced by our presider at every Mass: Take and eat, all of you, for this is my Body; Take and drink, all of you, for this is my Blood.
Remember what Mary said: Do whatever he tells you.