The Gospel reflection for Jan. 16, 2022, tells of Jesus' first miracle during the Wedding Feast of Cana as depicted here in a stained glass image found in Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Long Branch. File photo
The Gospel reflection for Jan. 16, 2022, tells of Jesus' first miracle during the Wedding Feast of Cana as depicted here in a stained glass image found in Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Long Branch. File photo
Gospel Reflection for Jan. 16, 2022, Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

As the evangelists Matthew and Mark place the revelation of Jesus at his Baptism, and Luke points us to the Finding in the Temple, John instead draws our attention to the Wedding Feast at Cana. Each of these episodes in the life of Jesus are presented and understood in distinct ways by each of the evangelists.

Arriving at a wedding as no doubt he had done many times before, Jesus is intending to stay quiet as he begins to gather some disciples around him. Although the disciples, those who become the apostles and perhaps still others, are already accompanying Jesus, and are present at this wedding, he has yet to engage in any public ministry. It would seem that Jesus spent some time with the disciples to prepare them for discipleship before he engaged in his ministry. Although it is in Galilee, Cana is not the hometown of Jesus or, presumably any of the others so this must be the wedding of some relative of Jesus. This becomes even more apparent as we learn that the Mother of Jesus is also present at the wedding. It is through her intercession that the miracle that occurs here is instigated.

The wedding itself is unimportant to the miracle, aside from providing an eschatological context with which to understand the miracle that occurs here. While modern pilgrims are drawn to a site called Cana in order to renew their marriage vows, something much greater than a marriage was celebrated here.

Upon hearing that the wine was running out on day three of a usual seven-day festival, the Mother of Jesus approaches him and reports the news. How it became her concern is unknown to us. Jesus immediately knows what she is suggesting, and he dismisses her outright. It seems that Jesus is reluctant to inaugurate his ministry at this time and in this way. He has been baptized and he has assembled his disciples, so we are not sure what Jesus is waiting for at this point. All that remains is to begin the work at hand: to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God and to do the work of the Messiah.

With the soaring and majestic Prologue to the Gospel as background, we see now how the Gospel account itself will unfold.

Even against Jesus’s objection that, “his hour has not yet come,” his Mother moves forward with instructions to the wine stewards to “do whatever he tells you.” Taking six stone jars – each hewn from a single block of stone – Jesus makes sure that they are filled to the brim with water. These jars, which were used for the ceremonial cleansing, were very expensive to make and to own. Given that they are in this house, it is believed that the owner of the house was from the priestly class. Jesus takes water – ordinary water to be used to clean, and not water that had been set aside for any other religious purpose – and transforms it into wine, a rich and full-flavored wine.

This brings us to recognize the proclamation of the coming of the kingdom. The work of the Messiah is now at hand, but Jesus also sets a tone that differs from the messianic expectations of most of the people and the elders of Judaism. Read along with the Prologue we see a new dispensation for salvation at hand. Jesus “full of grace and truth” now transforms the ordinary (water) into the extraordinary (choice wine). The old Jewish ceremonial water becomes the wine of new life, anticipating the wine that becomes the sign of the New Covenant, the very Blood of Jesus himself, which we receive in the Eucharist.

The Mother of Jesus, though she now disappears from the ministry of Jesus, inaugurates his ministry and instructs the Church: “do whatever he tells you.” This is our first indication that to be his disciple is not just to stand with him, or to acclaim him, but to actually follow him in obedience and living a life of active discipleship.

All of this occurs at a wedding banquet as the fulfillment of the prophetic voices of the past wherein the Kingdom of God is seen as a banquet, a great feast, where the celebration lasts forever. Jesus will use this image again in some of his parables. Jesus institutes the Eucharist, itself a sign of the great feast of heaven.

The great High Priest, Jesus Christ, transforms the hewn water jugs of the priest who hosts a wedding banquet under the old Law into the sign of the New Covenant. The rest of our journey through the ministry of Jesus points us ahead to what is accomplished in the Paschal Mystery.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.