Listen to: Al Green "Let's Stay Together"
It started with my grand-nephew Declan rolling on the aisle during the prelude, while everyone was settling in. Then I caught the eye of other family members, some I have seen in months; others for years. Then the ritual took over. My eldest nephew, Matthew, who was to be married, stepped out. He was soon followed by his groomsmen, the bridesmaids, several sweet, smiling flower girls, and finally came Declan, the ring-bearer. The lump in my throat grew in proportion to the tears that brimmed at my eyes. The priest spoke that although weddings are joyous celebrations, the wedding ceremony is a sacred event. It binds not just spouse to spouse but families and friends to one another.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ first great sign, or miracle, occurs at a wedding (2:1-12). Its surprising to see Jesus celebrating at a wedding. Our gospel writers are so intent on making it clear Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Son, that his humanity is overshadowed. We forget Jesus laughed, enjoyed life, listened to music, and looked forward to celebrations as much as anyone else. So here he is in Cana of Galilee and his mother discreetly lets him know of a looming disaster: the wedding is about to run out of wine. Even for a modern day event, we can understand what a fiasco this would entail. Families have scrimped and saved to put on as lavish a feast as they could afford, which often involved the entire village and extend for as long as an entire week. To run out of wine would be a huge embarrassment. Some would doubt the reputation of the family. With compassion Mary talks to Jesus about their problem. Jesus in turn, responds tersely: “what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”
Throughout John’s gospel, Jesus speaks of “his hour,” or the right or opportune moment for saving action; ultimately, in John, through his death on the cross and resurrection. However, as we see here in the story of the wedding feast of Cana, Jesus does indeed take action. He instructs the servants to fill six stone jars holding 30 gallons each with water. When the Chief Steward draws the water, he is astonished and says to the bridegroom, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
Somehow even Jesus realized that this was a right time to do a good deed – saving a wedding by providing more wine. How mundane was this? It wasn’t raising someone from the dead. It wasn’t reforming a sinner. It wasn’t healing a blind person or a leper. It wasn’t calming the seas. If anything, Jesus’ miracle probably produced a good number of hangovers. Yet it was one of Jesus’ most important miracles. It preserved the dignity of a family at a critical time of its life. It started a couple off on the right foot. It allowed a community to continue to celebrate, even in the midst of typical first-century hard life.
What Jesus’ miracle at Cana teaches us is this: marriage is a sacred symbol of union and relationship that connects individuals, families, and communities. No wonder the Jesus uses marriage symbolism frequently in his parables, the Church as the “Bride of Christ” is an image used in the writing of St. Paul. Even if we are not the person being married, we are connected into the bonds of love and affection that exist around us. We exist and are sustained in a web of love. We need to help each other when the need is there. That is what Jesus did for that couple in Cana.
Jesus died to clear and show us the path to love. Marriage is nothing less than a path of love. Whether we are married or not, we are pledged to love. Today, love well. Even if it doesn’t feel like your time. Even if you feel “put out” Like Jesus, give your very best. We discover in giving our best, that our hour is now, after all.
Prayer: Jesus: Thank you for the web of love that exists around us. Help us expand that web, and help someone who feels unloved today. Amen.