‘Tis the season of NFL championship football, with fans’ focus on the games/parties/and the celebration of it all.
So, how ironic (and completely appropriate) that the Church coincidentally highlights the Epiphany of Jesus with his first recorded “miracle”: turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana (John 2: 1-11). A strange way to start a ministry...or is it?
A first-century Jewish wedding did not last for a few hours (like ours) but went on for seven days. Seven days! The entire community was invited, and wine was essential. People did not generally get drunk as they drank wine mixed with water, and they drank in a social context.
So, here we have this young couple, just married, and they ran out of wine in the middle of their wedding feast. A major social disaster in the making. It may not be as dramatic as the raising of the dead, bringing sight to the blind, etc., but here is Jesus, with his mother Mary, and the problem of the moment presents itself.
What Jesus does is an act of compassion, meeting the needs of people where they are...and this story reveals a secret about life: miracles happen. That there are signs of God at work, appearing all around us whether we see/hear/acknowledge them, or not. They benefit whether or not we notice them.
It is a joy to see these signs for what they are and believe in the one to whom they point. We should think of miracles not as being weird exceptions to the orderly laws of the universe, but of the same origin as those laws, teaching us the context of those laws. St. Augustine said about this story:
“He who made the wine that day at the marriage feast does this every year in vines. But we do not wonder at the latter because it happens every year; it has lost its marvel by its constant occurrence.”
Perhaps this story appears first in the Gospel of John because, in reality and in the sight of God, the world IS a wedding celebration. In the eyes and heart of God, LIFE in the world IS a celebration. Amid disasters, horrible crimes, societal dysfunction...the vast, days-long party at Cana continues because God sees the celebration that life really is, and says it is good. Time for kickoff!