21 January 2019 at St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, Fl
Isaiah 62, 1-5 + Psalm 96 + 1 Corinthians 12, 4-11 + John 2, 1-11
Can’t you just imagine what Mary said to her son as they were leaving that wedding feast? I can, and have often enjoyed sitting with this episode wondering what it was like for the wine steward, the servers, the bride and the groom, their parents. We’ve all been to weddings big and small, and we know how many people it takes to satisfy the expectations of everyone. So, when we sit with this story, your imagination can lead to some wonderful insights which might well be revelations. So, on their way home, Mary says to Jesus: “Really?” Jesus says: “What?” She looks at him as only a mother can and says: “600 gallons of extra ordinary wine! Really? Was that necessary?” With that, I suspect that like every son, he rolled his eyes and shook his head wondering: “She told me to do something, and I did.”
As much as we might like it to be, this is not about marriage or families or weddings. The principal characters are not the bride and groom. This is really about wine and a wedding feast, and what we can see here is what God has planned by coming to be with us. The writer, John, calls this the first of the “signs”. He never uses the word “miracle.” In John’s Gospel, these are all signs of things to come. Now remember, those people didn’t drink water. They washed in it. They didn’t have coke, pepsi, or punch. They drank wine, and the wine of their life, we are told, has run out. In other words, they are lifeless. There is no joy. There is no excitement, no laughter, no anticipation of good things to come. A wedding without wine is an empty ritual without any passion. It is dead. Then comes God in the person of Jesus Christ, welcomed as a guest. Empty jars are like empty hearts and empty lives, so he says, fill them up, and the good news is that they obeyed, and best of all, they filled them to the brim! That’s the way to respond to what God asks. No half-hearted reluctance, no half-done response. Go all the way, and look what happens when they do.
It’s an experience that will be repeated more than once. Think about the loaves and fishes and what happens when those who are with him do what Jesus asks. These are signs of things to come. They are signs of what happens when with Jesus we use what little we have and discover that it is always more than enough. There is in our life time too much dryness, too little joy, too many empty jars, and too many liturgies that have too little spirit, and no passion. Too many have become accustomed to all this going through the motions without any expectation of what is to come. The real sadness is not the lack of wine, but the passivity of those who do nothing. Mary refused to do nothing and accept a joyless wedding feast. She was already convinced of how extravagant and bountiful life can be lived in the presence of God. She teaches us today how to make things different, how to take a dry, empty life, lived with no expectations about the future. This Gospel, and this Church proclaims again and again that God has come, that God is the guest who can change everything with lavish love when we turn Jesus and do what he asks.