Readings: Isa 62:1-5; Ps 95(96); 1 Cor 12:4-11; Jn 2:1-11 Theme: Jesus, the Divine Bridegroom
Last Sunday, we celebrated the feast of the Baptism of the Lord that concluded the Christmas season. But at the same time, the feast began the Ordinary time of the liturgical year, which focuses on Jesus’ public ministry. It is no wonder then for us to be presented with the first public sign of Jesus at the wedding at Cana.
Our first reading is from the last part of the book of the prophet Isaiah that describes the Age of Salvation of the New Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem, Zion, depicted as a woman would become glorious as a bride prepared for her husband, God, the divine bridegroom. God will fulfil his promises concerning Jerusalem, not only for her sake but also for all the nations to see. The prophet uses the beautiful imagery of a royal marriage. Jerusalem will be a crown of beauty and a royal diadem. Her name will be changed from [ ֲעזוּ ָ֗בה ] Azubah ‘Forsaken’ and ,Shemamah’ Desolate’ or ‘Devastation.’ God had forsaken the city because of her sins ] ְשׁ ָמ ָ֔מה [ a reason for the attack of the Babylonians. They took them into exile, leaving Jerusalem ִתּ ָבּ ֵֽעל [ Chephtsi-bah’ Delight in her’ and ] ֶח ְפ ִצי־ ָ֔בהּ [ desolate. Now her new name will be ] Thibbaal ‘Married,’ or ‘Ruled over.’ God will take delight in Jerusalem and rule over her. God is her husband, and Jerusalem, the bride.
The last part of the reading is the most beautiful, ‘For as a [ָבּחוּר ] bachur, a young man marries a [ְבּתוּ ֔ ָלה ] bethulah, a virgin, so shall banekah marry you. Banekah here is translated by many as your sons. The same word could mean your builder in the Hebrew text, which is more consistent with the context. God is the builder, the maker of Jerusalem and Israel, the one who would wed Jerusalem. And the following phrase echoes the same idea. ‘As the [ ָח ָתן ] chathan, bridegroom rejoices over the [ ַכּ ֔ ָלּה ] kallah bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.’ Jerusalem represents the future kingdom that Jesus would inaugurate. All humanity and every nation will be welcomed to that wedding between God and humanity. God’s wedding with humanity is first realised at the incarnation, opening up and setting the foundation for the great marriage of the Lamb in the kingdom of heaven (cf. Rev. 19:6-9; 21:9-10). The wedding feast at Cana, in a subtle way, presents Jesus as the bridegroom who provides wine for that great wedding feast.
Jesus was at the wedding with his disciples, and his mother was there too. Mary was the one who noticed that the celebration had run out of wine and turned to her son. In the Ancient Near East, wine was not a luxury but a necessity because of water scarcity. It was, therefore, an image of sustenance and life. Wine became associated with ‘grain and oil’ used as a technical term for the covenantal blessings (cf. Gen 27:28; Deut 28:39; Joel 1:10; Hos 2:8, 21- 22; 9:2). Wine takes up eschatological imagery in the prophets (cf. Isa 25:6; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13; see also Lk 22:18). But wine also takes on the image of eschatological judgment (cf. Jer 25:15; Isa 63:6). In a positive sense, wine is an image of joy, celebration and festivity and an expression of blessing from God (cf. Ps 4:7).
At the wedding at Cana, Mary, the mother of Jesus, noticed that the celebration had run out of wine. The Jewish wedding took seven days of celebration, and it would not be surprising that the wine would finish. Mary was concerned about the joy of celebration, and she turned to her son. She did not tell Jesus to perform a miracle. She only said, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus immediately understood that Mary wanted her to do something. Mary told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them. Jesus commanded them to fill the jars with water, draw some from it and take to the steward. The water had become wine. The steward tasted the new wine and spoke to the bridegroom about providing the best wine first rather than keeping it to the last. The bridegroom always provided the wine. Hence the stewards thought that he had kept the best until then. But the reader knows that Jesus is the provider of the wine. He is the real bridegroom who comes to give life and sustenance.
Jesus’ response to Mary, [τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι; οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου.] ‘What is to me and you, woman? My hour has not yet come’ takes the reader to another level of understanding. The hour here could mean it was not yet time for his public manifestation or refer to his glorification on the cross (cf. Jn 7:30; 8:20; 13:1). The hour here could also look more profound to the eschatological celebration of the wedding feast of the Lamb (cf. Rev 19:6-9). This wedding pointed to the marriage between God and his people, Jesus has come to inaugurate, which will happen when his hour comes on the cross. We, therefore, represent the people who have no wine, and Mary intercedes for all of us. To have no wine is to lack God’s sustenance and life. Jesus comes to provide that sustenance and life for us. He gives s that sustenance at present in the Eucharist.
To participate in the wedding of the Lamb, the bridegroom distributes different gifts to the participants. For instance, in the gospel: we see the wedding attendants told to do whatever they are asked, and Mary pointing out with divine insight and wisdom that the celebration has run out of wine. To participate in the divine wedding, we need the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which St. Paul discusses in the second reading. The Spirit is given to each person for a good purpose. These gifts enable us to carry out our unique tasks as Christians. ‘All these gifts are the work of one and the same Spirit, who distributes different gifts to different people just as he chooses.’