SUNDAY’S READINGS | January 16, 2022
The preface to the Marriage Rite mentions the first miracle of Jesus recorded in St. John’s Gospel. “The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee” (BCP, p. 423). Several previous prayer books rather touchingly say, “which holy estate he adorned and beautified with his presence and first miracle” (1928, 1892, 1789, and 1662). Indeed, to adorn is to beautify and add luster. The presence of Christ at the wedding is “a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (Isa. 61:3). More beautiful than the bride and groom, Jesus “shines out like the dawn,” gives light “like a burning torch,” though in a manner at first hidden because he is merely one of many guests. He blends in, standing with his mother and his disciples.
The wine runs out, something the mother of Jesus notices, and she mentions this to her son. Jesus seems to rebuff her request, though without any lack of respect, as many commentators are quick to point out. It simply is not, Jesus says, “my hour,” which may allude, as it often does, to his passion, suggesting perhaps the greater miracle of transforming wine into his blood and the outpouring of his blood for the salvation of the world. “My hour” may also suggest that it is not the right moment, though it would seem the right moment arrives just minutes later. In any case, Jesus will do what he will do in his time, and he is subject to no necessity.
Mary “has pondered all these things in her heart” for many years, and so she may sense that something new is about to happen through her son. She trusts him and says to the servant, “Do whatever he tells you,” giving an encapsulated statement of all Christian discipleship. Indeed, Jesus speaks to the Church today, saying, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them . . . and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me” (John 14:23-24). The word of Jesus, being the very word of the Father, is given in the form of a command to the servants at the feast. Like the calling of the fisherman, Jesus calls out to those at work. He finds people in the world as they live their daily lives. He speaks not to those at rest and ease but to those who labor and are heavy laden.
Speaking to the servants, telling them to fill water jars, commanding that they draw out the water-become-wine and take it to the steward: Jesus is at work in human lives and upon the substance of creation. Of the miracle, we are told “the servants knew,” indicating at least the possibility of their conversion. Do we not find ourselves in these servants? Jesus addresses us in the imperative; he tells us, “Follow me.” We respond to his call because we know him, and he knows us.
And, to strengthen our faith, he gives a sign, the changing of water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. What is this other than a miracle of abundance and joy? And, as with the Eucharist, a change is effected in us through Christ’s command and omnipotent power. We partake of new and better wine, and so, to quote Richard Hooker, “there ensueth a kind of transubstantiation in us, a true change both of body and soul, an alteration from death to life.”
The new wine is Christ himself at work in our lives!
Look It Up: Psalm 36:8
Think About It: Drink from the river of your delights.