Second Sunday of Ordinary Time: Cana Revisited

Today’s Gospel presents one of the best known miracles in Jesus’ ministry, the changing of water into wine at Cana. The presence of the Lord at this marriage feast has resulted in our associating Cana with Catholic marriage.

Jan 20, 2019

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)
Readings: Isaiah 62:1-5
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Gospel: John 2:1-11

Today’s Gospel presents one of the best known miracles in Jesus’ ministry, the changing of water into wine at Cana. The presence of the Lord at this marriage feast has resulted in our associating Cana with Catholic marriage. This is OK, but actually, the miracle is less about the sacrament of marriage than it is about the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Let’s take a closer look at this “first sign,” to use the words of the Evangelist, John. The account begins with a somewhat disturbing dialogue between Jesus and Mary. She tells him that they have run out of wine, and he says, “Woman, what does this concern of yours have to do with me? It is not yet my hour.” A lot is lost in the translation, to say the least. When Jesus calls his mother woman, he is not being sharp, like some kid calling his mother, lady. Instead, he is calling his mother the name given to the first of her gender, Eve. Mary is the new Eve. By asking Jesus to do something, she, like Eve, is going to put into motion an event that will transform the world. Eve put a negative event into motion. Her actions ultimately resulted in the Fall. Mary’s actions are going to result in salvation. That’s why Jesus brings up the concept of the hour. He is not telling time here. He is saying that the hour of his passion, death and resurrection have not yet come. The hour of salvation has not yet arrived. But Jesus acquiesces to his Mom’s demands and, by doing this, he becomes a public figure destined for the Cross.

Mary tells the steward to do what Jesus tells him. This is the proper response to the presence of Jesus: “Trust in his word.” Six water jars were used for purification. The number is important here, also. Six is one less than seven, the days of creation. Six therefore always refers to a lack of perfection. Mankind’s lack of perfection is going to be transformed by the presence of the Saviour.

The water that had been in the jars was used for purification. Jesus was going to transform it into something that would be used for a greater purification, not just wine, but his blood. You see, this passage is not just about wine. It is about the wine that will be transformed into the Blood of Christ. The passage is about mankind sharing in the death of the Lord through the Eucharist. The first sign, Cana, points to the Final Sign in the Gospel of John, the crucifixion, when Jesus is raised up on the Cross.

Biblical study like this can be enjoyable but, like the chief priests and scribes of the Gospel on the Epiphany, who knew where the Messiah would be born but were totally oblivious to the implication this would have on their spiritual lives, scripture study is useless if we do not allow it to affect our hearts. What is this passage saying to us? First of all, the passage points to the extraordinary transformation of the world at Cana. The transformation took place because people trusted in the Word of the Lord. The means for purification from the evil of the world would be transformed from symbolic washing to sharing in the Blood of Christ.

When we receive communion, we are participating in this transformation of the world. When we receive communion, we are united to the One who died on the Cross for us. We receive communion every week. We have to be careful that we never receive communion routinely. We need to remind ourselves that every reception of the Eucharist is a union with the crucified Saviour whose blood has defeated the power of evil, not just in the world, but also in our lives. All of us, myself included, need to reflect more on what we are doing when we come up to communion. We cannot allow this extraordinary event to become ordinary.

Mary has an instruction for us in this gospel passage. She tells the wine steward, and she tells us, to trust in Jesus’ word. Consider this simple directive. Jesus has told us that we will never be alone. In the Gospel of Matthew he says that he will be with us always. Jesus has told us that God cares for each of us. In both Matthew and Luke, we hear “Are sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” There are times that we feel alone. Henri Nouwen wrote that this is part of the human condition. That is the feeling, but the reality is that we are never alone. We have to trust in the Word of the Lord. God knows. God cares. God is with us. We have to trust in his Word.

Finally, the passage leads us to a consideration of the New World of Jesus Christ. This is a world where the ordinary becomes extraordinary. It is a world where simple people become great spiritual leaders. It is a world where the least important in society is raised up with the Dignity of God to the most important in the Kingdom. We have to take care that we don’t get so bogged down with the sham events of our spiritually deprived and materialistically depraved world, that we miss the really important events taking place all around us. Children are proclaiming the presence of God. Adults are reaching out to his presence in others. We are being enriched by his love in our families. For the Christian, the extraordinary is ordinary. It is quite normal for the water of the world to become the wine of Christ. The reading is telling us that we live in miraculous times. Jesus is transforming our world through the blood of his cross. — By Msgr Joseph A Pellegrino

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