“Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:4).
Water is necessary for life; wine is the biblical symbol for life beyond survival, a source of celebration and joy. The Hebrews who escaped slavery and spent 40 years wandering in the Sinai could only dream of the time when they would be settled again, able to plant vines, harvest grapes and make wine.
The covenant made in the desert between God and his people was described as a nuptial. How can there be a wedding without wine? For the Israelites in the Promised Land, wine was God’s gift and a ritual necessity at weddings. To run out would have struck at the symbolic heart of the covenant.
Mary sees the embarrassment of a family and a village on the wedding day of their beloved children, and this moves her to firmly push her son to respond to their need. John the evangelist sees in this event the deep implication of Jesus’ ministry to proclaim the new covenant. The six large ceremonial jars of water represented the ritual fulfillment of the Law. Jesus will turn the water into wine. Law becomes Love, the new measure of the covenant.
The bridegroom is praised by the headwaiter for “saving the best wine until last.” How many marriages and love stories must make the same journey from water to wine, then from the first wine to the best wine, saved for last? The presence of Jesus at the wedding makes this possible. His journey will take him from the waters of baptism to the wine of God’s love poured out in the joy of the Gospel.
But this transformation will take the symbol one step further. The wine of Passover will be the cup of his blood, shed for all of us, our exodus from the slavery of sin and death.
We celebrate this mystery at our community worship. Every Mass is a nuptial feast that strengthens our covenant with God. But all these powerful symbols remain hidden until we reveal them in our own lives. Mary nudges us to begin our ministries to the needs of others so evident all around us. Jesus empowers us to do so by following him from Cana to Jerusalem as we mature in love and service.
How blessed we are to have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb, then sent to share the wine of the Gospel with everyone we meet.