They Have No Wine

Today’s Gospel is a scene from St. John’s Gospel that is very familiar to most of us: the wedding feast at Cana.

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples also had been invited. It sounds like it was a great big party, one of those events where everyone in town is invited. Lots of guests, lots of food, great music and plenty of wine.

But, at a certain point in the celebration, the wine runs out. In Jewish tradition, wine was a visible sign of God’s loving gifts to human beings, as well as a sign of wisdom used in Jewish rites of purification. So to run out of wine unexpectedly was a big, big deal.

Mary realizes the situation and goes to her son and says, “They have no more wine.” At first we wonder what is the point of her statement or whether anything will happen, because Jesus response to Mary is so abrupt and dismissive: “Woman, how does his concern of yours involve me? My hour has not yet come.” Essentially: leave me alone. Not my problem.

If the hearer of that response is a person of timidity of uncertainty, that is the end of the story. Jesus brushes her off and she goes away. But that is not what happens. Instead, Mary turns to the servers and says, “Do whatever he tells you.” Despite Jesus’ words to her, she seems secure in the knowledge that Jesus would take some action. .

And, Jesus does just that. He tells the waiters to fill six stone water jars with water – and then he turns the water into wine. He doesn’t appear to touch the jars, he doesn’t seem to do anything to the water. He gives no blessing, utters no specific words – he simply changes the water into wine. John ends the wedding at Cana story by pointing out that this was the first of the signs revealing Jesus’ glory, and it was because of it that “his disciples believed in him.”

The contrast between Mary and the other disciples is telling. It was because of this first sign that they believed in him. Mary, however, didn’t need the sign; Mary believed before there was a sign. Not only does Mary go up to her son with expectation and certainty, but also by doing so she effectively declares her belief and certainty that Jesus was the Messiah. Mary’s words – the final she is recorded as speaking in the Gospels – implies faith in Jesus.

In his Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, Pope John Paul II wrote,

Mary is present in Cana of Galilee as Mother of Jesus, and in a significant way she contributes to the ‘beginning of the signs’ which reveal the messianic power of her Son…At Cana, thanks to the intercession of Mary and the obedience of the servants, Jesus begins ‘his hour.” At Cana, Mary appears as believing in Jesus. Her faith evokes his first ‘sign’ and helps to kindle the faith of the disciples.

A model of faith for all of us.

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