Today’s readings: Isaiah 62, 1-5; 1 Corinthians 12, 4-11; John 2, 1-11.
Changing water into wine may not be very credible for our scientific mind today. Many a time, failing to grasp the real meaning underlying these gospel episodes, we take the easy way out and portray Jesus as simply a wonder worker. Of course, this is not what the gospels really want to convey. These narratives call for a much deeper understanding and for a better grasp of the gospel message itself.
St John in his gospel tells us that this was the first of the signs given by Jesus, implying that much more was to follow not only in his days but for all time to come. There are so many moments in life when we are blocked or in dire situations and expect to be given a sign, even minimal. This Cana incident, which John gives at the opening chapters of his gospel, shows that Jesus came to change not just water into wine, but all those situations in life when we lose hope and when our very identity is put to question.
In the first reading the prophet Isaiah speaks of changed identities when he assures Israel that “you will be called by a new name”. Israel as God’s people had problems with its own identity and with its God, having a deep sensation of being forsaken and abandoned. Yet Isaiah speaks in terms of a nuptial relationship, assuring them that “as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will your God rejoice in you”.
A central theme here is God’s gratuitousness. In today’s Cana narrative, there is no one who is asking Jesus for help. It is Mary’s sensibility that stands out. Maybe the hosts themselves were not even aware of what was happening and of what they lacked at such an important moment in their lives.
It often happens that we ourselves are not in touch with what we actually lack in life, unable to explain the sadness that surfaces or the boredom that grabs us. The way God operates in such instances, as Jesus at Cana, remains in the background and it is up to us to take notice of it.
At Cana, there was no crowd to witness what really happened. It just happened without the knowledge of those benefitting from it. This calls on us to be more mindful of whatever is happening inside us.
Each of the signs recounted by John in his gospel is simultaneously a teaching, a parable, a sign and an event. As the 20th century Russian Christian mystic Valentin Tomberg writes in his book Covenant of the Heart, the divine-cosmic union is mirrored in the marriage relationship, and at the Cana wedding Jesus heals the sickness of a distorted relationship which begins with enthusiasm and soon runs out of wine.
All this is mirrored in life as it comes across and as we live it. Jesus transforms water into wine, and the second wine is better than the first.
He happened to be there as one invited among many others, but his presence made all the difference. The wedding feast could have proceeded normally even if he did not happen to be there. Yet the new wine was an added value to the feast, and thanks to Jesus’ intervention they kept serving it till the end.
It is this new wine that we need on our tables, in our relationships, in our capacity to connect and stay with others. There is so much that can ruin the table atmosphere among us, our community living, so much that constantly interrupts our conversations and blocks our connectivity. The sign of water changed into wine signifies that letting God be God in our lives can keep us going, never tiring ourselves of doing good and making all the difference in other people’s lives gratuitously, without expecting to be repaid.
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