January 20, 2019
The Second Sunday after Epiphany
(1 Corinthian 12:4-11; John 2:1-11)
A Michigan woman works at a 7-11. She loves her customers, her work and her fiancé. So she married him on the asphalt outside the 7-11 on 7/11 — July 11th — carrying her bouquet in a Super Big Gulp cup. At the reception, hot dogs and Slurpees were served at reduced prices.
In Washington state, a wedding was celebrated 18 stories up atop the Tacoma Narrows Suspension Bridge soaring over Puget Sound and high above the speeding traffic whizzing by down below. The happy twosome walked what may be the longest aisle in wedding history.
In Maine, one couple first met at their town transfer station — locally known as The Dump. He had just starting working there. She had just brought her first recyclables. They plan to be married where they met while standing in the bucket loader. Town folk have been donating returnable bottles to build a honeymoon fund. The couple is seeking ways to incorporate recycled objects into their wedding outfits. They can’t wait to say “I do” at The Dump.
It’s the Reno Syndrome. Vegas vows. After all, does it really matter where weddings take place — even if they are in exceptional or unconventional places?
Many mothers apparently don’t think so, especially one.
The wedding at Cana was not exceptional for its location. But there was a minor stir when the wine ran out and that’s when a Jewish mother intervened — Jesus’ mother.
And that’s when Jesus stepped out, of his humanity and into his divinity, changing mediocre water into vintage wine.
Don’t read too much into that statement — “Stepped out of his humanity and into his divinity.” No revision of the Nicene creed is intended.
The point is that the Gospel text itself tells us the intention of this miracle: “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.”
Truth be told, most weddings, as lovely as they are, are forgettable — except your own, and the ones on bridges, or at The Dump. Unforgettable weddings usually have an unpredictable facet — like a fainting bride, or a cold-footed no-show groom, or a bridesmaid who fell in the mud on the way in the door, or a smiling minister who repeatedly and confidently calls the bride and groom by the wrong names. (Fortunately, I don’t recall ever doing that, but I have used the wrong name during a baptism. Think rolling eyes emoji’s!)
Jesus, his mother and his friends attended an unforgettable wedding in Cana. People are still talking about this one.
Apparently it was just your typical, traditional wedding celebration with an average and pleasant reception — until the wine gave out. Customarily the better wine was served first at Galilean wedding receptions. This makes sense, when you think about it. You serve the good wine first, when the palate is fresh and expectant. After a few glasses, who cares? Both the guests and their taste buds are dull, and the cheap stuff can be brought out for the final slide into inebriation.
But to run out of wine before it is time — that was an unforgettable hospitality indiscretion that would have caused minor humiliation for the host if the problem was not hastily fixed. In short — it could have been a social disaster.
Picture a stressed-out host trying to find more wine while quietly badgering his servants. Picture the servants’ fear.
For whatever reason, Mary, Jesus’ mother, got involved in the wine problem. We don’t know why. Maybe it was the wedding of a relative. Maybe Mary thought that marriages were worth celebrating. We can almost hear Mary saying, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll talk to my son — he can fix anything.” We have here an ancient version of the Kent family of Smallville who have a teenage super-Clark around to help with the heavy lifting.
So Mary tells Jesus, “They’re out of wine.”
Jesus replies “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” In other words, “Cry me a river,” or “Why don’t you tell that to someone who cares?”
There are ancient stories of Jesus’ youthful miracles written in a New Testament apocryphal gospel called The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Savior. Some of the apocryphal stories in this gospel about the young Jesus aren’t too sweet. But there is one describing how Jesus, ever the dutiful son, helped in the family carpentry business. Every carpenter knows this rule: measure twice, cut once, because if a board’s cut too short you can’t stretch it to fit — not then, not now — unless Jesus is your son.
According to the Infancy Gospel, the young Jesus worked with his carpenter dad. Dad wasn’t too good a carpenter, so this gospel says (oral tradition says otherwise). Every time any product of their workshop was the wrong size — which apparently was fairly often — Joseph asked Jesus to fix it. Jesus, according to this apocryphal tale, would wave his hand over the finished piece, thus miraculously stretching it or shrinking it to the right size, satisfying his father and the customer. Even if this story or the others like it in the New Testament Apocrypha are mythology, it is reasonable to assume that Mary, his mother, knew he could fix things like no other son could; otherwise, she would never have suggested that Jesus fix the wine problem.
In a way, even though it was Jesus who performed this first public miracle, it was Mary who saved that wedding day. She led Jesus to it. Even though it appears Jesus was challenging Mary as his “hour had not yet come.” However, Jesus, fully respectful of his mother and in anticipation of his desire for his mother to become mother of us all, he submits to her request. Notice how Mary did not even respond to Jesus’ challenge, she merely tells the waiters to do as he says. She had the faith we need now! She knew he would give her what she asks!
His miracle was simple. Fill six large ceramic jars with water. Dip a cup. Take the cup to the wedding coordinator. Let him taste. Suddenly there were 120 to 180 gallons of excellent wine. That was no doubt enough wine for the rest of the reception.
Certainly the guests tasted the quality improvement. They speculated: “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
So what does all this mean?
It means that the wedding at Cana is where Jesus “revealed his glory,” and where the disciples first “believed in him.”
So what does all this mean to us?
It means that if Jesus can change water into wine, he can change us, too. This is a miracle of transformation.
Jesus can turn the sour into the sweet. Jesus can turn bitterness into peace. Jesus can turn hatred into love. Jesus can turn anger into joy.
The wedding at Cana is a metaphor for new, transformational beginnings. A lesson in faith. A lesson to always got to Mary with biggest and most difficult needs, because she will always tell her son to change whatever is our water into wine.
The great Catholic televangelist Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to tell this humorous story: One day the Lord says to St. Peter, "How are all these people getting into heaven?"
"Don't blame me Lord," St. Peter says, "Every time I close a door, your Mother opens a window!"
A trip to Reno not necessary. Vegas vows irrelevant.
Just ask Mary, she’ll get Jesus to take care of whatever it is. His disciples “believed in him.” So should we.
Let us pray.
We pray for all those preparing for marriage and ask the Lord that their love for each other be strengthened by the sacrament and that their marriage be blessed and fruitful. We pray to the Lord.
That all those especially chosen by Christ for the unique paths of holiness as priests, deacons or in the consecrated life, will heed our Blessed Mother’s counsel to do whatever He tells them in loving obedience. We pray to the Lord.
For all of us present in this Eucharistic assembly that encouraged by the Word of God we may live our lives in the spirit of godly fear and fraternal charity. We pray to the Lord.
For blessings on this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; that all Christians may be one in faith, hope, and charity. We pray to the Lord.
For our country as we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day; for an end to racism and division. We pray to the Lord.
For our President and Legislators that they will end the government shutdown. We pray to the Lord.
For the continued recovery and health of our Presiding Bishop Bekken and Abbot Gentzsch. We pray to the Lord.
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers. (Pause) We pray to the Lord.
God of wonders, at Cana in Galilee you revealed your glory in Jesus Christ and summoned all humanity to life in him. Show to your people gathered on this day your transforming power and give us a foretaste of the wine you keep for the age to come. Loving Father, sanctify us in Christ Jesus. You have called us to be holy. May we respond with all of our heart and soul. Lastly, help and motivate us to work toward brotherly love of all people of all nations, races, classes and cultures without prejudices of any kind. We ask all these things, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, CA