On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight.
A friend of mine once told me of the time he was on an airplane, wearing his dog collar. The stewardess was handing out bottles of wine, which he at first turned down – but later he changed his mind and asked the stewardess for some wine after all. She handed him a bottle of water. He looked quizzically at her and she replied she was doing her job so he should do his.
I think she did relent and hand him a bottle of wine as well.
When Jesus collects his first group of disciples what does he do? Does he take them aside and provide them with some deep theological lessons on the existence of God and the importance of sticking to the rules of religion? Or does he take them out into the desert, to fast and to pray and to seek penitence for their sins? Well, I’m sure they did these things in their own time. But this is not the first thing they did.
The very first thing Jesus did with these disciples was to take them to a wedding. There are many points of view about what this wedding signifies. It takes place on the third day- with echoes of raising of the Temple in three days, of Christ’s Resurrection after three days. It is a day of joy! It is a day when all will know how much God loves them, how much God has sacrificed for them. It is an Easter day.
This wedding, this celebration of Love joining a man and a woman together in body, in mind, in heart and in spirit, becomes the backdrop for a celebration of Jesus and his disciples love and commitment to one another and to God.
Jesus invites these disciples to join him in a dance. It is a dance between the sacred and the worldly, a dance of the Lover and the Beloved, of the Bride and the Bridegroom. Weddings in the Middle East today, just as in the time of Jesus, are a time of music that seeps into the sinews of your body, stimulating your limbs, your hips, your whole being, to dance with the rhythm of the drums and the pipes and the lyre. The song is plaintive, reaching down to the very heart of you, pulling out all the longing of the soul. But it is full of joy too – joy that comes at the end of a day full of hard physical labour in the fields, of a fisherman in his boat, of a carpenter at his bench or a woman weaving a curtain for the Temple. The work is hard, and the play is hard too.
Mary, the voice for the poor and the oppressed, the voice that rejoices at the bringing down of the proud and the lifting up of the lowly, that rejoices at the feeding of the hungry, that rejoices at the fulfilling of God’s promise – Mary is already present at this wedding.
In the midst of all this celebration, this dancing and singing and feasting, Mary notices something. The wine has run out. Mary notices those who have not, those who go thirsty, those whose joy has gone. Mary notices. And she turns to Jesus, Jesus whom she has been promised will make a difference to those who go without. She turns to him.
And his response seems strange – ‘what is it to you and me?’ And maybe this is a question for all of us. We expect him to come to the rescue – surely he would come to the rescue?! Surely he wouldn’t leave the hosts to suffer the humiliation of not having enough? But maybe he is asking why it should matter? Why should we who are guests expect a constant flow of wine? Why should it be Jesus that comes to the rescue? Why shouldn’t the guests be more forgiving, more understanding of the predicament? Why should it be him that solves the problem, a problem that the guests have made in the first place? Maybe if they’d shared equitably, been more careful, everyone would have had plenty.
But Mary has faith, Mary knows he will help, and help in abundance.
This wine, wine at the wedding feast, wine at the Passover, wine that is Christ’s blood poured out for us. This is the covenant, this is the promise made at the wedding at Cana, that God will pour out his life for us, even to death on the cross. He will give his life’s blood for us. Water so essential to life, water used to cleanse, to heal, to baptise, to quench thirst, to feed, the mundane of daily life, water transformed into the sacred, that which gives joy, which is used to bless, a symbol of life poured out for us, transformed to hold us together, united in one body, in one blood, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen