Isaiah 62:1-5; 1Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-12
THE MIRACLE OF CANA
In today’s gospel Jesus is seen beginning his mission. Now, for the first time, Jesus can go public, and we begin to discover the power of God at the wedding feast at Cana. Since Christmas, we have been considering Jesus’ preparation for the work. In today’s episode, he has been invited to a wedding party, alongside his mother, and his other friends, later to be called apostles. They were having a good time, when the whole scene threatened to turn sour. The hosts were running out of wine. This spelt great embarrassment and disaster! They would be the talk of the town for generations to come. Mary went out of her way to intercede with Jesus and Jesus performed what John tells us was his very first miracle.
- JESUS IS PRESENT IN OUR EVERYDAY LIFE
Notice where this miracle takes place. It is situated in the home of working class people in an inconsequential, even run-down town in Galilee. Jesus is willing to squeeze himself into our kitchens, slip off his old sandals, and take a seat at our scarred tables. God is obviously more than willing to involve Himself in the humdrum of our everyday lives. The same God, who keeps the cosmos alive in the palm of His hand, is likewise willing to concern Himself with our very mundane problems. If we do not bring Him our requests, it is we who are foolish. It is we who have misread the intent of today’s Gospel.
- CHRISTIANITY IS ALL ABOUT BRINGING JOY INTO PEOPLE’S LIVES
It is also worthy to note the occasion of this miracle, Jesus’ first miracle! Jesus was not healing someone – giving sight to blind, curing the deaf, or the dumb. He was not casting out demons. It neither took place in the Temple nor anywhere near it. It is not in any synagogue. It is of course a wedding party! It is a time for laughter, music, and very obviously, plenty of wine. John paints for us a Jesus who himself enjoys a good time. A party was obviously not something which was beneath him. He participated in it voluntarily. Mikhailovich Dostoevski, a Russian writer, was enchanted by the event of today’s gospel and he commented in his book titled: “The Brothers Karamazof”, “In Cana, the first miracle, the compassionate Jesus joined not in human sorrow but in human happiness.”
Jesus was not an anti-social person; neither was his mother. She is the one who first noticed that the wine was running out, and that the party ran a risk of ending abruptly, and maybe in confusion. She decided to do something about it. The only thing she could do was to turn to her son. He did not disappoint her. Even though his “hour had not come yet”, he still went ahead to perform a miracle because his mother asked.
Christianity is all about bringing joy into people’s lives. It is not about being gloomy and causing hardship to people. Christians are meant to be people of joy, having joy in themselves and spreading that joy abroad. That is not to say that the cross or suffering should no longer be part of Christianity. Conversely, even when Christians have to bear the cross, they are to do so cheerfully. “When you fast, you should put scent on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except you father who sees all that is done in secret…” (Mtt 6:17-18). A Christian who walks about with a long face should take cue from Cana even. He/she has much to learn and, more importantly, to change.
- WE SHOULD INVITE JESUS TO OUR HOMES
“If you invite Jesus in your home, you are never the same again,” a writer once said. Have you ever consciously invited Jesus into your home in a practical way? For instance, would a visitor see any evidence on your walls that your family has a reminder of Jesus and Mary, Saints, etc., through a crucifix, a sacred picture or the enthronement of Christ the King? Or would he/she say, “I see that your kids are fans of Barcelona FC or Manchester United, Christiano Ronaldo or Roger Federer or one of the arts stars of the day”? If your daughter/son brought home a classmate for the weekend, would he/she say afterwards: “Your family is really Christian. I cannot remember praying at meals as I prayed in your home” or would one hear comments like, “I never seen family members running down one another as in your home”?
Anytime that we genuinely welcome the Jesus, into our lives, a miracle takes place. With him in our life, we can expect something special to happen. He will not make life for us completely free of sufferings, but he will bless our marriage, our home, our business. He will transform what is imperfect, like our mistakes, our heartaches, our sins into the best of wine, giving us new hope, new efforts, healing, forgiveness, faith amidst our problems. Let us invite Jesus today and make him stay in our homes.
- MARY THE “MEDIATRIX”, MEDIATOR OR “GO-BETWEEN”
The Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11) constitutes the event which Pope Saint John Paul II added to the Rosary as the Second Luminous Mystery in 2001. Mary was a quiet woman, who listened more than she talked. It was she who first noticed the predicament, and there was no way she could stand idly by, and let the unthinkable happen. She went straight to Jesus, and, as was her custom, instead of a big long speech, she simply said “They have no wine”. Like any good mother who knows the hidden talents and potentialities of her children, Mary tabled her request. There are many young men and women who have gone on to accomplish great things in life because their mothers believed in them and encouraged them. Because of Mary’s request, Jesus performed his very first miracle.
“Woman, what’s that to me? My hour has not yet come,” Jesus said. Meaning, it was not yet the right time to begin his divine mission. But Mary was confident. So she instructed the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Here, we can see the maternal power and influence of Mary over her son. Jesus could not disobey his mother.
Incidentally, fundamentalist Christians and our Protestant brothers and sisters criticize Catholics for praying to the Blessed Mother. “Why do you still go to Mary? Why not go straight to Jesus Christ?” they claim. Obviously, we can pray directly to Jesus but the gospel today shows clearly how Mary can serve as a mediator or “go-between” to her Son. This Catholic practice has biblical basis. Today’s gospel teaches us that when we pray to the Most Holy Virgin, asking her to help us, we will always find her ready to intercede with her Son for us. If we ask for something that is good for us, and we pray with faith, Christ will certainly perform a miracle for us, first to please his mother, and then to help us in our need. Mary is therefore called the “Mediatrix”.
The term “Mediatrix” that we Catholics use for Mary describes the singular role that the Mother of Jesus has in the mission of her Son as Mediator. This title does not conflict with the Bible in which her Son is called the sole Mediator as found in 1 Timothy 2:5. In fact, when we call the Most Holy Virgin by that title we do not belittle Christ’s mediation. The Bible calls on all of us to offer prayers, petitions, intercessions and acts of thanksgiving to God (1 Timothy 2:1). In reality, whenever we pray for someone else, we act as mediators for them before our Lord. And that is what the Virgin Mary does when she asks her Son to help us.
One of the documents of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, says, “The Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. This, however, is so understood that it neither takes away anything from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator.” (Lumen Gentium Vatican II §62). One of the titles Vatican II gave to Mary in that document is ADVOCATE because she intercedes before God on our behalf as our advocate. For this reason, on December 8th. 2000, Pope John Paul referred to Our Lady as our ADVOCATE OF MERCY. In the prayer which we pray after the Rosary, the “Hail Holy Queen”, we ask Mary to intercede before God for us. We ask: “Turn then, most gracious ADVOCATE, your eyes of mercy towards us, …” The Virgin Mary, because she is the Mother of God, because she lived a life of total dedication and faith, and because she is closely united with her Son in heaven, is the Mediatrix, par excellence, between him and humanity.
- CONCERN FOR OTHERS IS THE BEGINNING OF MIRACLES
A fascinating question arising from the story Cana is this: Did Mary know all those thirty years during which she lived with Jesus that she was living with a wonder-worker and yet she never asked him to multiply her bread, turn the water on the dining table into wine, or double her money to make ends meet? How come she never asked Jesus to use his miraculous power to help her out, yet she was quick to ask him to use it and help others? Think of it. If you have a child who has a miraculous power to double money for other kids at school, would you not ask him to double yours at home too? After all, one would argue, charity begins at home. But for Mary and for Jesus the needs of the other come first.
Take the case of Jesus. He knew he had this power to perform miracles. After his forty days fast in the desert, he was hungry and the devil suggested it to him to turn some stones into bread and eat, but he did not do it. Yet he went out and multiplied bread for crowds of his followers to eat. What are they telling us, Mary and Jesus, through their actions? They are telling us that God’s gifts to individuals are not meant primarily for the or their families’ benefit but for the service of others. That is what St Paul also tells us in the second reading of today, when he enumerates the many different gifts of the Holy Spirit to different persons and adds that “to each person is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good,” (1Cor 12:6) not for personal profit.
Today, then, is a good day to ask ourselves: “What gifts has God given me? Am I using these gifts mainly for my own personal profit or for the service of others in the community?” We sometimes wonder why there are no more manifestations of the Holy Spirit like what we read in the Bible. Maybe the reason is that we have grown more selfish. If we began using the little gifts that we have for the common good — like the gift of praying, singing, teaching, caring, sharing, encouraging, supporting, motivating, writing, etc. — then these gifts will probably begin to grow and soon we will begin to see miracles. Concern for others is the beginning of miracles.
- “AND HIS DISCIPLES BEGAN TO BELIEVE IN HIM” (John 2:11)
A very important point of focus in this Gospel story is the inspiration of belief. We are not talking about an all-out belief, but as John describes it, A BEGINNING OF BELIEF. In this last verse of today’s gospel episode, we find a new level of belief. Not only does Jesus bring renewal to our relationships and to our need for wholeness, he also brings renewal to our very belief. Look at verse 11. “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory” The miracle is called A SIGN, and at that sign his disciples believed. Jesus’ words and deeds were signs about WHO HE IS. Christ brings renewal to all things. This passage highlights renewal in relationships, wholeness, and faith.
- “THEY HAVE NO WINE”
With those words Mary speaks a truth about our lives, a truth that at some point we all experience. There comes a day when the wine gives out. The glass is empty. The party is over. On that day life seems empty and dry. There is no vibrancy or vitality. Nothing is growing or fermenting within us. Our world is colorless and tasteless. The bouquet of life is absent and we are living less than fully alive. Mary’s words hold before us some serious questions and wonderings. Where has the wine of our life given out? What relationships have run dry? What parts of us remain empty?
Each one of us could tell a story about the day the wine gave out. It might be about the death of a loved one or the loss of a friendship or marriage. Some will speak about their search for love and acceptance. Some will describe their thirst for meaning and significance. Others will tell of their guilt, disappointments, or regrets. Many of the stories will be about fear of what is or what might be. Stories of failure and self-doubt abound. Some will describe a longing and desire for something they cannot name or describe. The storyline of unanswered prayer, doubts, or questions is known by most. They are not all stories from the past, however. Some of us are living those stories today. Despite our best efforts, good intentions, and hard work, however, it seems that the wine of our life is always giving out. No matter how often we refill it, our glass remains empty. There is never enough wine. As the day wears on we become increasingly aware that we cannot replenish the wine from our own resources.
We were never intended nor expected to live by the sufficiency of our own resources. Christ is the true producer of good wine and chief steward of our lives. We are invited, therefore, to begin the new year, believing and depending in him in a new way, in a way that we have never done before. Let us BEGIN TO BELIEVE! (Now, let us rise and recite our Creed.)