(St Bernardine’s Church, Regents Park: Saturday 6pm, Sunday 7.30am & 9am)
19/20 January 2013
(Readings: Isaiah 62:1-5; Ps 95; 1 Cor 12:4-11; John 2:1-11)
Have you ever noticed that the Bible begins and ends with a wedding? In the beginning, we have the marriage of Adam and Eve, as found in the book of Genesis. In the last book, the book of Revelation, we have the marriage supper of the Lamb. In the Scriptures, marriage is constantly used as the symbol of the covenant relationship God wants to have with his people. In the Old Testament God is the groom, and his chosen people are the bride. We see this imagery in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah. That reading says how God speaks of his chosen people: “you shall be called ‘My Delight’ and your land ‘The Wedded.” The reading concludes, “… as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will your God rejoice in you.”
That symbolism is taken up in the New Testament – there Christ is the bridegroom – and the Church is his bride; the Church being the new Israel, the new chosen people of God. So it’s not surprising that the first sign Jesus gives is in the context of a wedding celebration. The bridegroom has arrived – the kingdom of God – the marriage supper – is beginning!
It’s interesting that the first thing Jesus does as a sign of who he is isn’t specifically to heal a sick person, or to preach to the crowds, or call people to repentance. The first sign he gives is to change water into wine at a wedding celebration. We could say, then, that “any aspect of existence, even the most banal, is worthy of a relationship with [Jesus] and therefore, of his intervention” (Servant of God Luigi Giussani). What seem like the ordinary, mundane things of our lives are the very things that God is interested in, because it’s in those actual things that fill our days where we put God first – or not – where we follow his will, or not.
Can you imagine a wedding where the drink runs out?! If you were the organizer of the wedding, or if you were the bride or the groom – how would you feel? It would be embarrassing – for some it would be a disaster – to not have enough for the people you’ve invited to a celebration. And yet one thing the wedding feast at Cana can teach us is that when things go wrong, it can be an opportunity for something better to happen. The apparent disaster of running out of wine led to Jesus producing wine that was even better than the original wine. And it also led to the glory of Jesus being seen and his disciples believing in him. Perhaps we can think of situations in our lives when God was able to draw good fruits out of what at first appeared to be a bad – even tragic – situation.
Another marvelous thing the wedding feast of Cana teaches us is about Mary the mother of Jesus. Mary shows us how to be disciples of Jesus. One of the first things we notice about Mary is her concern for others. She is there at the wedding in Cana as one of the guests, and yet she notices the problem unfolding and she wants to do something about it. In what Mary does she reflects the goodness and generosity of God, who is always thinking of us, watching over us, and providing for us. Mary has an attitude of creative service. She wants to act – just like in the visitation, when Mary – herself being pregnant – goes to help her cousin Elizabeth in her pregnancy. St Vincent Pallotti said it well: “Remember that the Christian life is one of action; not of speech and daydreams… In heaven we shall rest.”
Another way Mary’s actions teach us is that she knew she couldn’t fix the problem by herself – but she knew very well who could. She doesn’t tell Jesus what to do, but she brings to him a very specific problem. She has confidence in Jesus. She knows that his heart is full of goodness, love and mercy. Mary teaches us to come to Jesus with that same confidence; to lay before him the very specific needs we have.
Another thing Mary teaches us is to obey what we hear God say to us. We hear today the last words Mary will speak in the Gospels, “Do whatever he tells you.” We might think that sounds easy, but it could well be the hardest thing. When Jesus told the servants to fill the jars with water, what do you think they were thinking? Here’s this guy who has come with his fisherman mates and his mother, and he tells us to fill the jars with water. How’s that going to help? He’s wasting our time!
Doing what God tells us is not always logical, and it’s not always the easiest thing to do. And very often, it means going against the tide. God’s ways are not our ways. Everyone else is using contraception, it must be OK. Everyone else is having sex before marriage and living together, what could be wrong with that? How could I possibly fit prayer into my busy schedule? How will I find the time and energy to feed the hungry, or to visit the sick? We need to pray for the grace to be able to do as Mary says, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Having heard the word of God today, let’s remember that our day to day lives matter very much to God, because it’s right there that we serve him: our kitchens, our classrooms, our celebrations and parties, our recreation. No need is too small or insignificant to be brought to Jesus with confidence.
Let’s give thanks that our Blessed Mother continues her role of interceding for us – of taking our lives and our needs to the heart of her son. Let’s be like her in our attitude of creative service of others. And let’s pray for that grace that was given in such a special way to Mary, who was able to fulfil perfectly the will of God in her life, who was able to do what she urges us to do: Do whatever he tells you.