One thing common found in many cultures across the world is an esteem for wine. Wine is used for celebration. Wine also makes an ordinary meal into something special. As the psalmist exclaims to God, ‘You made wine to gladden the heart’ (Ps. 104.15).
The gospel today gives us a wedding feast, where the guests are celebrating the happy couple, and many a glass is lifted up. But the wine is running out (John 2.1-11). If the wine runs out before the celebration draws to a close, it will be a humiliation for the host and an embarrassment for the newly-weds. Mary notices, and wants to spare them this, and so she turns to Jesusin concern.
The resulting miracle is a revelation, as we hear at the close of the story: ‘He let his glory be seen.’ A domestic crisis has become something utterly different – namely, a glimpse of divine glory. Like so much of the gospel according to John, this incident points away from itself to the whole history of the church. At each and every Mass the priest lifts up the chalice of wine. In this simple moment, when the words of Jesus over the cup are repeated, something remarkable happens. We are there with Christ and he is here with us.
The wine is significant. Every Mass is a celebration, when we recall with thanksgiving what Christ has done with us. He makes us part of the People of God, and tells us that the Kingdom of God is already among us. We are embraced by God in a union as close as that of the most loving marriage, as our first reading reminds us (Isa 62.4b-5). The Messiah is the sign and the seal of this union (cf Isa 54.5). What is this, if it is not a cause for rejoicing? Cana in Galilee reminds us of this other, greater wedding feast which extends through time into eternity.
The staggering quantity provided in the miracle tells us that God’s love will never run out, just as the eucharist itself is an inexhaustible source of grace.
What about those stone jars that used to contain water? They too become silent witnesses to what God is doing. There is always a place for purification. We need to take our lives seriously, to reflect on our lives and to seek the sacrament of reconciliation in which we acknowledge our frailty and receive the merciful gift of God’s forgiveness. But this cleansing depends upon the prior knowledge of God’s love. To confess without knowing God’s love is to risk being trapped in guilt.
God’s love, like the supply of wine provided by Christ, is there to meet our need, and can never be exhausted.
Fr Terry Tastard is parish priest (pastor) of Holy Trinity, Brook Green, in the Hammersmith area of London. His new book: Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, from religious booksellers and from the publisher.