Third Sunday after Epiphany
The Gospel. John 2. 1.
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: and both Jesus was called, and his disciples to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six water pots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the water pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
Next to the book of Revelation, St. John’s Gospel is one of the most misunderstood writings of the New Testament. Critics like to point out the numerous inconsistencies with the Synoptic Gospels and the fact that this book has portions that were obviously added at some later date. Some even go so far as to use these discrepancies to argue against the historical validity of all the Gospels.
But these “critics” often miss the point of St. John’s Gospel. And the point is this; that while we can see that this particular Gospel does in fact possess some historical relevance, ultimately it is a theological statement that is equally significant and relevant and valid today. We know this through the symbolism that may be found throughout the content of the text; an example of which we may see in the story of the wedding in Cana.
Now it is obvious that this story is about a miracle performed by Jesus, turning water into wine, that St. John calls a “sign”. In a larger context this is significant because the Evangelist also recounts other miracles, or signs, throughout his Gospel as proof that this Jesus was and is the Messiah foretold in the Jewish Scriptures.
The Old Testament said that the Messiah would be known by the performance of such miracles. St. John connects Jesus to these Old Testament prophecies by the recounting of these miracle stories. So right off the bat we have relevant statement number one; Jesus is the Messiah.
Next, we have the role of St. Mary. Now I have known people who mistakenly think that we Catholics “worship” Mary. Of course, this is not true; we do not “worship” her, at least not in the same way that we worship God. However, we do honor and venerate Mary; and this is one example of why. First, the Blessed Mother recognizes a need; the wedding hosts have run out of wine. Then, she points the wine stewards in the right direction; “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it”.
The Catholic doctrine about St. Mary is rooted in her submission to God, her devotion to her Son, and her ability to intercede on our behalf. This Gospel story is one example. The Blessed Mother sees a need; just as she sees our need today. Next, she conveys that need to her Son, “And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine“. Then she tells the people how to meet that need; and it is the same way that our needs may be met today; “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it”.
So, through the intercession of the Mother of God, we have our second relevant statement for today; Give your needs to Christ, and do whatever he tells you; and when you do, you will receive the best that the host has to offer.
Now on to this whole business of water turning into wine. First, there is again the messianic sign; the Old Testament promised that the coming of the Messiah would be signified by an abundance of wine (Isaiah 25:6, “And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined“). This miracle in Cana occurs during a wedding celebration; the bridegroom is present! And not only has wine been made in abundance, but it is the very best wine!
Second, we must look at the water that was used. In those days, whenever a Jew entered a house, they would perform a ritual washing. The host would ensure that an adequate supply of water was available for guests to complete their purification as they came in. At a wedding feast, quite a large amount of water would have been needed. And so, the Gospel today tells us that there were six large pots of water and these were set aside specifically for the purifying of the Jews. And then, Jesus turns them into wine.
Let’s tie all this together; when a Jew entered a house, he would purify himself by washing with water. When we enter into God’s house, the Church, how are we purified? At the wedding in Cana, the water was turned into wine. Here in God’s house, what happens to the wine (and water) during the Mass?
That’s right, I’m connecting the symbolism found in the wedding at Cana to the Mass; The Mass during, which the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, meant for our purification. The Mass, during which we follow the direction of the Blessed Mother; “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it“; The Mass where we follow the commandment of Our Lord to “DO THIS”. This is yet another theological and doctrinal statement that is valid for us today; one that is in total accordance with the Synoptic Gospels, and all of Holy Scripture.
So why am I going on about all these details and making a big deal out of what might seem to be a fairly simple miracle story? It’s because of those critics I mentioned earlier. You see, these people are looking for some simple way to understand God. They see the historical doctrine and discipline of the Church as being merely about man’s desire for power and control.
They believe that the complex reasoning that was used to form the doctrine and discipline of the Church is too difficult and “contrived” to be understood (and therefore meaningful) to the “average modern day” man. And so they look for ways to bring God down to mans’ level; they look for ways to explain the Gospel in “average human” terms. And as a result, they are looking for ways to tear at the theological and doctrinal fabric of the Church.
But these critics either don’t realize or don’t care that they are robbing themselves, and others, of the fullness, the richness, the majesty and the mystery that is God. Those qualities are present in God’s Revelation of Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Those qualities are present in the Church that Christ established here on earth.
And those qualities can only be seen, felt, and experienced by refusing to limit God; by admitting that there are complexities to God that man can never hope to understand; and by accepting that there are many levels of meaning in any particular passage or chapter of a book in the New Testament – the Inspired Word of God; upon which our Catholic Faith and our connection to God is based.
When we accept that these qualities exist, we see that there really are no discrepancies, no inconsistencies in the Gospels. When we accept that these qualities exist, we see that the message of the Gospel is really not all that complex. When we accept that these qualities exist, we are better able to understand the glorious message of God’s Revelation.
Just look at the story of the wedding in Cana; The Messiah has come, signified by many signs; We are in need, so we are told “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it”; And we are purified, we are saved, because of and through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How relevant and valid is this message today?
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
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