Homily Notes for 2 Epiphany 2016
John 2: 1-12
The wedding at Cana enjoys a special place in Anglican tradition. It is referenced every time we celebrate Holy Matrimony in the Charge to the Couple indicating the special blessedness of marriage by the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at the event, and the performing of his first miracle there. In our nave we even have a window in our East Wall, in the series of the seven sacraments, commemorating the event.
But what is this passage really about? What is the point? Is this a party trick?
Well you might think it is the latter, as every priest, at some point, makes the joke when handed a glass of water. But, I will let you in on a secret. No, it is not a party trick. If you want to know a deeper secret, this passage is really about wine! Seriously, wine, vino, is the point. Not to go to Sideways, but it is not so much a conversation on Merlot v. Cab v. Malbec v. Chardonnay v. that pink wine that calls itself white. It is about wine and what wine communicates in the history and theology of Ancient Israel. It is about Wine and God.
Note the setting. A wedding where wine runs out. What is important here is not that the wedding cannot continue, but there is no more Wine. See here is the clue, Mary is upset that there is no more wine and she confronts Jesus with the fact. “They have no wine”, she says. Jesus’ response seems at first to be cruel, “Mother, what does that have to do with me, my hour has not come.” He is asking if she really understands what she is asking. This is not about cultural embarrassment, or saving face. He is asking if she knows just what she is asking of him. Her response, “Do whatever he tells you” shows that indeed she does understand.
So what is she asking? She is asking for, wait for it, wine! Wine is a metaphor of both God’s blessing and judgment upon Ancient Israel. When the people of Israel keep God’s covenant they are blessed by God as those with wine. When they fail to keep God’s covenant the wine of God becomes sour to them. Psalm 4.7 tells us that contemplation of “God puts joy in the heart more than when they have wine.” Provers 3.9-10 tells the young that if they honor God with their first fruits their vats will be bursting with wine. Isaiah 24.11 tells of people crying out in the desolate city because there is no wine. As that passage continues into Isaiah 25.6 the Lord will provide on his holy mountain a feast with well-aged wines, and it will be declared (v.9) that Behold this is our God.
“They have no wine”. They have run out of blessing and only God can provide the richness and fullness of the blessing that is sought. If Jesus blesses the marriage with wine, it will be a statement of who he is, and Mary knows full well what she is asking and commands the servants to listen to her son.
Jesus commands them to fill the purification vats with water. The ritual purification rites are hereby transformed. What will cleanse is not the ritual of the law, but the wine of Christ. In this we see a foreshadowing of the Eucharistic cup that it taken, blessed, and transformed into the Blood of Christ, or the New Covenant, which is shed for the forgiveness of sins. Wine the blood of grapes is a sign of the blood of Jesus Christ through which comes our purification.
In this miracle we see the glory, the presence of God, made manifest. This is Jesus’ first sign as he heads to his hour the ultimate revealing of God with us in the crucifixion and resurrection. This is the hour for which he has come, and he reveals himself in the context of a wedding, a prefigurement of the wedding supper of the lamb, which we celebrate with each Mass. This is the good wine of God’s blessing.
Yet, notice one thing about this short passage, there is a synergistic element here. Jesus does not draw the water, rather the servants listen to Mary’s instruction and then follow Jesus’ commands. They fill the jars, Jesus makes the wine. They fulfill Jesus’s commands and the people are blessed through Jesus’ work. So too with us. We are blessed to be a blessing. When we follow Jesus’ commands, not only do we receive the blessings of God, not only are we purified, but we are then sent to be a blessing to the world.
May God grant us the grace and will to follow Jesus, and may Christ always give us his new wine. Amen.