Last week we were honored to host a wedding here for Father and Mrs. Kenn Katona, friends of ours who live out in Arizona but have family back here. The retired bishop of Easton officiated and there were, if I counted correctly, a total of 18 people in the wedding party, so it was a joyous, loud, and somewhat complicated affair. We have two more weddings booked for this year (so far), and so that, combined with today’s gospel, has had me thinking about weddings quite a bit.
Everybody always looks their best at a wedding, and depending on your level of participation, they tend to be a great time. They can also be highly stressful, again, depending on your level of participation, and can bring out things in people they don’t usually like to show.
And sometimes things go wrong. Grooms pass out, maids of honor bloody themselves tripping over 4 inch heels, or perhaps you run out of wine.
Apparently running out of booze is a fairly common thing. My friend John, who bartends a lot of weddings, has tons of stories of woeful underestimation when it comes to how much your family and friends can drink at a wedding. And as we heard from St. John today, this is not a modern phenomenon.
So Jesus was invited to a wedding in Cana, and as was the custom surrounding rabbis like Jesus, His core group of disciples were invited as well. Jesus’ mom Mary was there, so perhaps this was a family event, maybe a cousin of Mary’s or something like that.
The location of the wedding, in Cana of Galilee, suggests as much. Cana was (it’s in ruins now, and there’s argument over which ancient ruins in Galilee is the exact place) about 4 miles or so north of Nazareth, and so Jesus had certainly been there before and was probably fairly close to the couple getting married.
This particular wedding banquet was probably going along rather smoothly until Jesus showed up with disciples, the early group of Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanael, and probably John and James. They had all just walked up from Jordan River, a journey of a couple of days, and six thirsty fishermen can some damage to the wine supply pretty quick.
And so the wine failed, as they say. “They have no wine,” Mary says to Jesus, and “though she merely states the unfortunate condition to Jesus, her statement is a covert petition to him that would remedy it, as our Lord’s answer shows. She practically requested him to work a miracle…”1
Jesus replies “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” We don’t know how that came out, but imagine you’re at a wedding, having fun, hanging out with some family and friends, eating cake, and your mom grabs you and starts making outlandish requests. Aw, mom, really?
Mary, being a good Jewish mother, ignores her Son’s rebuke and addresses the servants instead, “Do whatever He tells you.” Mary paints Jesus into a corner, and like the good Jewish son that He is, he obeys His mother.
And so the Mother of Our Lord caused two things that day: she saved the wedding party from the humiliation of running out of wine, and she caused her Son to reveal Himself as not just a great man but, in fact, our great God.
“This was the beginning or first of (His) miracles…We should note also that it was a sign. The value of the miracle was in what it signified, not in what it wrought. It manifested the glory of Christ, part of which… is his power to change the worse into the better…that he can transform sinners into his own likeness.”2
That’s the great sign of Christ’s activity in the world: that He takes us, humble as we are, and makes us like Him, in all His glory. How has Jesus worked His miracles in your life?