Reading: Saint John 2, 1-11
"Life as a party"
It is a beautiful story, about that wedding of Kana, actually too good to have happened. Who would not have wanted to be there? But, hey .... where is the bride, and the bridegroom? Who are they? What are they called? And what do they do? They would like to congratulate them and offer them a present, but they do not seem to found anywhere. There is water, lots of water - six jars of 100 litres each, that's nothing - wine, wine, good and better. There are also mentioned a few guests, including Jesus with his disciples, and also the mother of Jesus is present. But, once again, there is no mention of a bride. Only at the end is the groom briefly addressed. Is there actually a bride and groom? You could make a kind of search image: who and where are they, the bride and groom? The attention goes so much to the wine and the water, and to Mary and Jesus that we do not even miss the bride and groom in our story.
For us, people of this time, they may all be right questions and problems, but John's readers knew only too well who was meant by bride and groom. The image of the wedding reminded them of the time of the prophets and the deserts, when God celebrated his wedding with his people. They immediately understood that God is the bridegroom and the people of Israel are the bride. They knew the old writings that read: "I will make you my wife forever, I will bind you to me" (Hosea 2.21). Or as it is with Isaiah (see the first reading): "As a boy marries his girl, He who builds you, will marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, your God will rejoice in you. "So the gospel is not about a happiness day of two private persons but about the Covenant between God and his people that is presented as a marriage, and where the bride - the people of God, initially Israel, then the Christian community, the church community - may share in God's faithfulness and God's love, which brings abundance of life, joy and happiness.
John places this story about the wine wonder of Cana at the beginning of his gospel, immediately after his story about the Incarnation. With this story he starts the public performance of Jesus. What does he mean by that? In a nutshell and by way of introduction he summarizes the life of Jesus - whose incarnation he has told in the prologue - his mission, his message together to communicate it to his readers. It is a kind of foreword.
A foreword in a book is intended to encourage readers to read the rest, to get them to taste the contents of the book. We read something similar in the gospel at the feast of revelation from the Lord. The child of Bethlehem wants to be a light, not only for the people of Israel, but also for the people who live further away; people from across the border, people who have a different colour, speak a different language. The message of the child of Bethlehem is meant for the whole world.
We might say it briefly and concisely, but in the gospel of Matthew it is wrapped up in a story about the wise men from the east.
For John, Jesus is someone who wants to make the life of every human being a feast of God. Jesus has come to give the real, the full, the eternal life. The life he offers people is much richer, much deeper, much more meaningful than the (watery) life that we often lead. In Jesus' life we may also see that the goodness and the gentleness and the faithfulness of God reaches to death; that death even changes into life and that love between people of water can make wine. This vision is then further worked out by John in all his gospels, in all the signs that Jesus performed, as he says it.
With the wedding at Cana, called the sign of Cana by the Evangelist, Jesus made a start with the signs that he would carry on. But the sign of Kana already reflects the core idea and the core content of all signs. John also did not want to communicate this in a sober, businesslike way. He turned it into a beautiful and colourful wedding story. You can do it. And so on our side, we should try to interpret it.
In doing so, we can start with the question of whether Jesus and his message can also add colour and season our (my) life. Let us make the covenant that God also wants to enter into with us (with me) in our lives.
If we answer 'yes' to this question, we can probably go one step further.
Often people say in a funny way that they are jealous of Jesus. That they, like him, also want to change water into wine.
Well, we can all do that. All of us can turn the often watery lives of people into wine, to a colourful and tasteful life. If we are inspired by Jesus' message and live from God's covenant with us, we should be able to be a bit like Jesus and to do what He did: through His wonderful ways turn the life of every human being to a feast.
Father Ed Bakker,
Priest and Missioner,
Anglican Catholic Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne