Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the Gospel of St John, the passage we have just heard begins with the phrase, “On the third day there was a wedding at Cana”. The fact that the wedding took place on the third day is not just a minor detail which we can ignore. It gives us a hint as to how to interpret this morning’s Gospel. The meaning of this passage seems to be the supernatural transformation of human life which Christ brought about, and the mention of the “third day” to any Christian who knows the Creed, would be a reminder that Christ “rose again on the third day”. If we look at the wedding feast in the light of the resurrection, there is a wealth of meaning to it, and the Church herself seems to suggest the connection by having this Gospel read on a Sunday, the weekly commemoration of the resurrection.
The whole of Jesus’ life and ministry is a passing over, a passover, from death to life, just as the angel of death passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, and as they passed over the waters of the Red Sea dry shod, and commemorated these events every year in the feast of Passover. In the same way, Jesus’ public ministry begins at a feast, a wedding feast, which itself suggests the Passover to the Jewish mind, because the series of love poems in the Song of Songs is traditionally read during Passover as a sign of God’s love for his people. Here, at what might be called the First Supper, Jesus transforms, at a meal, one of the elements which he will further transform at the Last Supper, which was a Passover meal.
As this Gospel begins, Jesus is not yet widely known: it is actually his mother who was invited to the wedding feast; he is asked to come along, and his disciples together with him. From first to last, from the wedding feast to the foot of the cross, Mary will accompany Jesus at the major phases of his passing over. She was the gate through which the Son of God passed over from heaven to earth, and here she introduces him to the world. Her role is always to provide an opportunity for salvation to others. Her humility is summed up completely in the sentence, “They have no wine”. She does not do anything herself; she makes no demands, she only calls attention to human needs, so that God can fill us with his plenty, because that is God’s will for her.
Jesus replies that is hour has not yet come. This “hour” is the hour of his death during the feast of Passover. It is then that his glory was to be made known, when the Lamb of God was nailed to the cross, at the same hour when the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple. Any hint of his glory before the hour of his death could only be a sign that there was glory with him all the time, though it was hidden; and that is why the Gospel does in fact call this miracle “the first of his signs”.
Mary is not deterred by this response. She doesn’t even bother to reply to Jesus. Instead, she turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever he tells you”. Here again, Mary brings people to Christ, and she says the same thing to us as she said to the servants at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you”.
The servants act out of obedience and faith. They fill the jars with what they know to be ordinary water, but it turns into the finest wine. It is a wine of supernatural origin that Christ gives to his friends at the wedding feast. The red wine suggests blood, and is a sign of the shedding of the blood of the Passover Lamb of God. At the Last Supper during the passover meal, Christ would take the wine and turn it into a drink of supernatural origin, his own blood, which he would give to his friends who were present at the feast. And at that time he would add a phrase which recalls what Mary said to the servants: “Do this in memory of me”.
Our Eucharist this morning is a passover meal for the friends of Christ. It is a sign worked by the same Lord who changed water into wine at Cana, wine into his blood at the upper room, and death into life at his own passing over. As at Cana and at the cross, at this Eucharist it is Mary who brings people to Christ. In the words of St Peter Damian, “As Eve induced Adam to eat the forbidden fruit which brought death upon us, Mary now prompts us to eat the Bread which gives us life”. Let us respond like the servants at Cana, do this in memory of him, and let what must die in us be transformed by the risen Christ into what will live forever with him.