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Sunday 16 January 2022: Epiphany 2

Your land will have its wedding

Isaiah 62:1-5; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-11

By Duncan Macpherson

Features Editor, Roman Catholic Deacon and formerly Principal Lecturer in Theology at Saint Mary’s University, Twickenham

Context: a socially and culturally mixed congregation at a Sunday morning Mass in a suburban Catholic parish church – young families predominate

Aim: to underline the transformative power of the Gospel

A PERSONAL REMINISCENCE

Some years ago I was invited to a Muslim wedding in El Bireh, a town in the Palestinian West Bank just adjacent to Ramallah. El Bireh is approximately one hour’s drive away from Cana of Galilee, the place where Jesus changed the water into wine. He performed this miracle at Cana, because without wine there would have been no celebration.

By contrast, the celebration I attended at El Bireh was a wildly happy celebration, noisy, and incredibly exuberant. And there was no wine! No alcohol of any kind! But in the culture that Jesus lived in, as in much of our culture today, wine was an important element in celebration.

 

FAMILY DISGRACE

To run out of wine at a wedding was a matter not just of embarrassment but of shame – of a very serious loss of face. Mary was concerned for the disgrace of the family providing the feast. When they ran out of wine she said to Jesus, ‘They have no wine.’

Without wine there would be no celebration.

 

WE HAVE NO WINE

That relates directly to us. We would like to celebrate, but whichever way we look there is no wine—or for that matter little occasion for celebration. We might like to celebrate that the world is becoming a kinder fairer place, where vaccines are as equally available in poorer countries as they are in rich ones; where children do not die of hunger; a place without violence, without corruption in politics or business, without scandals in the Church.

Nearer home, at a more personal level, relationships may have become unsatisfying; and, as the years roll on, our ambitions remain unfulfilled. We would like to celebrate but we have no wine!

Like Mary, we turn to Jesus to ask him to help us to celebrate, and he tells us it is not time yet: ‘… Why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.’ And then his mother says to the servants; ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

Her message moves the goal posts. ‘Do whatever he tells you’. And unlike many preachers, she has already lived out what she invites others to do. When the Angel spoke God’s message to her at Nazareth years before her response was simply, ‘Be it done unto me according to your word.’

 

THE BEST WINE KEPT UNTIL LAST

And we know what happened. Jesus turned the water into wine. When he says that his hour has not yet come, he is talking about the hour of his death and his resurrection on the third day. In fact (though it is omitted from our lectionary text) the Fourth Gospel begins this story by telling us that ‘it was on the third day’ that he and his friends and family went to the wedding in Cana of Galilee.

The dying and rising of Jesus change everything. And it changes it big time – six stone water jars … each holding twenty or thirty gallons. One thing is certain: there was plenty of wine and it wasn’t plonk! It was grand cru, a Château Mouton Rothschild sort of wine. As the bemused steward observes, ‘People generally serve the best wine first and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink; but you have kept the best wine till now.’

There is a richness of life on offer that we can only imagine. It is sheer gift and requires only our co-operation: ‘You have kept the best wine till now.’ Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is given to each of us ‘for a good purpose.’ If we listen to Mary’s message--to do whatever Jesus tells us—we will find the strength to proclaim his wonders. We will be empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to begin to change the sadness in our lives and the injustice in our world so that we can truly celebrate and cry out with joy, ‘You have kept the best wine till now.’

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