• Isaiah 62:1-5 • 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11 • John 2: 1-11 • 2 Ordinary C ‘13 •
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 01.20.2013
In the years of my youth, wine appeared on our family table only at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I never experienced the custom of toasting. On the eve of our ordination as priests, Bishop Gilmore surprised my classmates and myself by asking us to pledge abstinence from alcoholic beverages for five years. He did us a great favor. The pledge provided a polite excuse for declining the hospitality of people. When I eventually began to accept offers for a friendly glass, I appreciated wine and beer as an integral part of a meal, and realized how such libations cheer the heart and stimulate meal conversation. I also learned the importance of offering toasts – a sacred way to help people appreciate their value, and to enjoy life.
John’s story of the wedding feast at Cana prompted my reminiscing about Bishop Gilmore and the pledge. Those memories influence these reflections.
Remember – everything in this text takes place within the context of a wedding. Weddings, births, funerals and shared meals are perhaps the most human experiences we have.
The Cana event is familiar to us but it’s meaning is elusive. Scholars suggest John includes this event in his gospel as a way of claiming identity for his community. The first communities living “the Way of Jesus” were devout, religious Jews. Their separate identity as “Christians” occurred only after they were expelled from both Temple and synagogue. That caused mutual animosity between the two and created a rivalry between them. Each claimed to be the “true Israel.” John was shrewd. The Cana event — Jesus replacing the water (of Judaism) with the wine (of Christianity) — was a subtle way for him to claim that his own community is “the true Israel.”
At the end of the narrative John invites us to contemplate what this event means for us. “This event “was the first of the signs Jesus gave.” In his gospel, “signs” point our attention to Jesus.
It is only by entering into a personal relationship with another person that we can really begin to know and understand who s/he is. The Cana event subtly invites us into relationship with Christ. Who was this man whose life was so attractive and surprising – and whose death/resurrection was even more so?
Because of the tradition handed down to us, most folks have confused ideas and/or images of Jesus. Most will agree he was human, but immediately emphasize he also was divine. The Cana event does not identify Jesus as divine. Whatever he did, there is no indication that either the hosts or guests attributed some sort of supernatural power to Jesus. He simply enabled those with him at the wedding to appreciate their own value, and to enjoy life. The tempo of the celebration picked up. The conversations became more animated. Toasts were offered. Joy became contagious.
The Cana event tells us Jesus of Nazareth was a human being like us. The interchange with his mother and the simple directions he gave to the servants make his love, his compassion — his humanity very obvious.
Transforming water into wine is a graphic statement of what happens to any person who enters into relationship with the Risen One. That relationship awakens my potential to become fully human, and brings my potential into actuality. That has been and continues to be my own personal experience. I am who I am, I live as I do, because of Christ. I attribute my own transformation and growth to my relationship with Christ.
I know my relationship with Christ has and continues to awaken my potential to become more fully human. The Cana event is a sign, an invitation in which John turns our attention to Jesus, inviting us to become fully human as he was.