16 January 2021

Continuing the Epiphany


“There was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples.”

-St. John 2:1, 2

The commemoration of the visit from the Wise Men only begins Epiphany. The Church actually links three events - the visit of the Magi, the Baptism of Our Lord, and Christ's first miracle at the wedding in Cana – and together these are the Epiphany: the manifestation of the Divine, the showing of the God-Man to the world.

He had come to take away the sins of the world, and to restore the communion between God and man which had been lost as a result of the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. He came to enter into our lives fully. He is true God, yet He does not cut Himself off from the everyday joys and activities of our lives. In Cana, we see Jesus and His disciples sharing in a festive wedding. Even though we do not know the names of the bride and groom, we do know that our Lord was there and He was celebrating with them.

In the society of that time a wedding was a special occasion, just as it is in our own day, although many of the customs were different. There, the wedding festivities lasted for a whole week. The wedding ceremony itself took place late in the evening, after a feast. After the ceremony the young couple was conducted to their new home. They were taken there by as long a route as possible so that everybody could have the opportunity to wish them well.

The newly married couple would stay at home and for a whole week while they kept an open house, there would be feasting and dancing for the whole community. In lives where there was so much poverty and constant hard work, this week of festivity and joy was a supremely bright and happy occasion. It was that joyful time that our Lord gladly shared, and to have run out of wine would have cut the whole thing short. It was Christ’s provision of the wine that allowed for it to continue.

It is not accidental that this first miracle – or what St. John calls a “sign” – takes place at a wedding feast. Marriage is an important image, being a symbol of that relationship that is between Christ and His Church. This miracle of turning the water into wine points ahead to the water and blood which would flow from our Lord on the cross, and it looks forward to baptism and the Mass, two sacraments which incorporate us and bind us to Christ. And it points even further ahead to the messianic banquet when Jesus will feast with all the members of the kingdom in heaven, in the age to come. Some of the earliest Christian works of art have depicted the wedding at Cana as the heavenly feast, the Supper of the Lamb.

Also, this sign is an expression of God’s overflowing grace – the supernatural help we receive from God to assist our growth in holiness – grace that is mediated to us especially through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this Gospel account it was the Blessed Mother who told her Son that there was no wine. It was she who interceded on behalf of those who were in need.

We know that God’s grace is full and overflowing, and this is symbolized in the story of the wedding when St. John tells us that there were six stone jars, each containing twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus commanded the servants to fill them all to the brim with water, a reminder that when the grace of Jesus comes to us there is more than enough for everyone and still much more left over. There is no need on earth so great that it could possibly exhaust the grace of Christ.

And not only is this grace full and overflowing, but its quality is always the best. Jesus touches a wedding and lifts it not just with the miracle but also with His presence. He took something ordinary and made it extraordinary.

He took a fisherman named Peter and transformed him into the Rock on which He has built His Church. He takes ordinary men and women, just like us, and He uses us as His instruments to evangelize and transform the world.

All we have to do is call on Him and be touched by Him and we will witness the fact that He takes something plain and ordinary and makes it extraordinary. If Jesus can turn the water into wine, He can certainly turn the sinner into a saint.

So often God reveals his glory to us in the least likely places – in a stable at Bethlehem, on a bloody cross at Golgatha, on the road to Emmaus, or at a village wedding party in Cana.

At Cana in Galilee we see the first public sign and miracle which Jesus performed. The Lord Jesus brought great blessing and joy to a newly-wed couple and their wedding party. Every miracle of Jesus demonstrates the power of God's love and mercy for His people. God's kindness knows no limits. And the ultimate expression of His love is revealed in the Person of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
He became flesh for our sake, He died for our redemption, and He rose that we, too, might be raised up and glorified with Him. As this miracle signifies the "new rich wine" of the Gospel, may we thirst for God and for the abundant life and blessings He offers to us.

And by the way, the key to living a life filled with blessings is summed up by our Lady herself: “Do whatever he tells you.”

Almighty and everlasting God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth: mercifully hear the supplications of thy people; and grant us thy peace all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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Pictured: The Marriage at Cana (Les noces de Cana), by James Tissot (French, 1836-1902).