Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

January 16, 2021
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm 96:1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
John 2:1-11

The wedding at Cana in Galilee probably involved a friend or relative of Mary and Jesus since they were invited.  Either the details of this wedding were not well-planned, or perhaps there were unexpected guests.  In any event, it doesn’t surprise us to find out that Mary was the kind of person who paid attention to details, who thought of others with compassion, and who wanted to prevent embarrassing situations, especially the type of embarrassment that culturally this young couple would always feel as shame thereafter. 

What does surprise us is Jesus’ response to His mother: “Woman, how does your concern affect me?” Here we must remember that this event in Cana came at the very beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. The reply of Jesus to His mother’s intervention reflects the newness of this moment: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His hour, of course, is His suffering and death, and from the moment He begins to reveal Himself to the Twelve, and to the multitudes of Israel, and to all the nations of the earth, He will be on the journey to His hour, on the Way of the Cross. However, Mary has no doubt that Jesus will respond, and confidently tells the attendants: “Do whatever He tells you.

Jesus proceeds to give some simple instructions: “Fill the jars with water and take some to the headwaiter.”  Somewhere in the process the water turns into wine, and a good wine if one is to believe the headwaiter.  Neither he nor the bridegroom seems to be aware of what Jesus has done but the Gospel tells us that the servants knew.  John tells us that the disciples began to believe in Jesus because of this sign.  Mary already believed in Him or the miracle, which the Gospel calls a sign, would never have happened. 

Even at Cana, Mary understood what was at stake. She had known from the moment of Gabriel’s Annunciation. She had known since the angels sang and the shepherds adored, and Simeon and Anna gave thanks, and the Magi visited, and the innocents of Bethlehem were slaughtered, and Joseph had to flee with them to Egypt. She had known since she was told of the sword of sorrow which would pierce her heart, and she had kept all these mysteries in that same heart and contemplated what the salvation of the human race would cost. So, Mary knew exactly what it would cost them both when she said to her son “They have no wine” just as she knew what it would bring to all the children of Eve when she said to the waiters and as she always says to us of her son: “Do whatever He tells you.”

Now moved by His mother’s intercession, the Lord Jesus took the first step on the Way of the Cross by instructing the waiters to fill six giant stone jars with 180 gallons of water and then asking that the chief steward be given the first taste. When the steward of the feast discovered that the newly available wine was the finest vintage of the day, he was astounded and praised the newlyweds for their generosity, and such is the superabundance of the love of God in Christ for the human race. No need of ours is beyond His providence, who came to suffer and die for us and to rise from the dead that we may have life and have it in abundance.

The first part of John’s Gospel consists of a series of such signs.  Signs point to something other than themselves.  The sign at Cana is water changed into wine.  Wine is a sign in the Old Testament of the joyful banquet God will prepare for His faithful, and the wedding is a sign of God’s intimacy with us, as Isaiah tells us today, “For the Lord delights in you and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.”

 For us, water changed into wine is a sign of wine changed into blood — the Blood of Christ shed for our forgiveness.  The wedding feast of Cana recalls images from the Old Testament, but also looks forward to the Eucharistic banquet we share.  The stone jars are a sign of our need for forgiveness, for us to be washed clean of sin, so that we can worthily receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Twelve Apostles were witnesses of these events. They saw Mary intercede with her son and instruct us to do whatever He tells us. They saw Jesus demonstrate His mastery over nature and attend to simple human needs from love. And they understood that the itinerant rabbi whom they now followed was more than the son of Mary. He was, as John the Baptist had told them, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Three more years of Christ’s public preaching and private teaching were needed for them to understand and accept the full implications of what they glimpsed that day at a wedding feast, but the Twelve Apostles had now encountered the revelation, mystery, and light of Christ. John tells us that “Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs at Cana in Galilee, and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him.” Only after Pentecost would the Twelve grasp fully the meaning of His Resurrection and Ascension to the glory which was His before He made the universe and that all creation is called to rejoice forever at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ.

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