The Gospel reading from this past Sunday’s mass was the story of the Wedding at Cana.
It is very intersting that the very first public miracle Jesus performed was a simple favor to a bride and groom at a wedding He was attending. The seeming reluctance of Christ to perform the miracle almost makes the story seem like a simple footnote to the Gospel story.
But there are many layers to the events at Cana that can give us amazing insight into Jesus and His mission.
The story begins “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana…” (John 2:1). If you add up the days from the beginning of John’s Gospel to the Wedding at Cana, it shows that the wedding occurs on the 6th day from the start. The parallels to Genesis are striking. Both Genesis and John’s Gospel start with the words “In the beginning…” so that the connection is not lost on any reader. In Genesis, the 6th day is when God created human beings. The ancient Jews always understood that God was the creator of marriage between the two so the 6th day in Genesis is also a wedding. And just like in Genesis, God is taking care of His people’s needs.
When the wine runs out, Mary tells Her son. He says, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” This “hour” is foreshadowed here for the first time. It is the hour when He will be glorified on the cross. In that moment, Mary will appear one more time in John’s Gospel, and once again, He will address her as “Woman.” This address is not an insult, but an insult, as could be mistaken in modern English. In ancient times, this was a polite way to address a woman.
Why is Jesus reluctant? John never directly explains why. But you can see that once He starts performing miracles, His life as a private Person is over. I’ve often read stories of modern celebrities who talk about coping with the loss of privacy when it comes to fame. I recall one person saying that one day no one knew who they were and the next photographers were following them to see what kind of toilet paper they were buying. As many perks as celebrity has, this is definitely a downside.
Once Jesus begins His ministry, as He knows He must, He will be swamped. In John 6, great crowds seek to make Him king, not because He is the Son of God, but because He gives them free food. And once He begins His ministry, He starts down the path that leads to the cross.
The last recorded words of Mary are in John 2. She says to the waiters, referring to Jesus, “Do whatever He tells you.” (John 2:5). As many holy people have pointed out, this is the entire function of Marian devotion: to direct us ever more to the Lordship of Jesus. And Jesus, though seemingly reluctant, will not deny anything that His Blessed Mother requests.
It says that there were “six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings…” (John 2:6). The number six is a symbol of imperfection. (If you are now asking why then is the world made in 6 days, it is because God blesses the world by resting on the seventh). The old covenant’s method of cleansing does not have the power to wash away sins. Only the power of Christ’s Blood can do this. The water will now be replaced by wine, which is a natural symbol for blood.
The parallel to the blood is found also in the book of Exodus. The first miracle demonstrating God’s power to Pharaoh occurs when all the water in the land turns to blood. And just lake at Cana, the transformation occurs not just in the rivers, but “even in the wooden pails and stone jars.” (Exodus 7:19). The transformation of water in stone jars to “blood” was the first sign that God has come and that our enslavement was soon at an end. Jesus is the new Moses who will set us free from sin.
And the head waiter says that this new wine is superior to the old wine (John 2:7). The prophets like Jeremiah spoke of how God would write a new covenant in the hearts of His people (Jeremiah 31:33). This new covenant would be greater than what has come before, as the wine of Jesus is superior to the pervious wine.
This simple article is not enough to plumb the depths of all that John has given in this story. But hopefully we can see that while we can appreciate this story at its most basic level, there is much more going on here at Christ’s first miracle at Cana.
Copyright 2022, WL Grayson