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The recent Pastoral Letter on this matter can be found on the Archdiocese website
Listen to this Sunday's Gospel reading by visiting the website www.sundaygospel.co.uk.
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Less Obvious Signs
The small town of Cana, in Galilee, is easily missed. In Biblical times it owed its existence and prosperity to a strategic oasis at the confluence of several prosperous trading routes. It did not have, nor has, any architectural or historical claim to fame. In today’s language, Cana would have been classed as a ‘pit stop’ on a tourist route. However, it is the place of Jesus’ first recorded miracle. John’s Gospel for this 2nd. Sunday of the Church year (2:1-11) records the event.
In Cana, today, a small shrine, looked after by the Franciscans of the Holy Land, is thought to have been the location for the wedding, attended by the Mother of Jesus. John’s “Jesus and his companions had also been invited” (2:2) carries the inference that Jesus was not the centre of attention.
John tells us that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a named guest at the Cana wedding. At the behest of his mother, Jesus came to the rescue of the embarrassed bride and groom. He caused water to become fine wine. Folklore tales of this miracle abound. Sadly, most have become completely detached from their Biblical source. This is true of many common gestures and invocations.
People, for example, unhesitatingly touch wood (or what they assume to be wood) when speaking. Few have any idea of why they make the gesture other than other family members or friends did so. Even the Baptised are sometimes stunned when you explain that the gesture of ‘touching wood’ originated with people of faith invoking God’s blessing on their deepest desires by seeking to link them to The Wood of Christ’s Cross.
Such moments of explanation – and they take but a moment or two - enable us to fulfil our Baptismal promise to “go and teach all nations”. Jesus gave explanations to his companions thereby inviting them to do the same. See Luke 7:24-27 or Matthew 11:7-9.
Explaining the origin of common gestures and invocations may help other pilgrims on life’s path recover what they had not even realised had been lost or stolen! It can be unsettling to discover how Satan, with devilish stealth, can steadily weaken an unwary Baptised’s relationship with Jesus Christ until, finally, only the outer shell of words and gestures remain. Satan literally steals the heart out of a person’s faith reducing words and actions to unthought-through rote expressions with no real content of faith in and love for Christ.
Jesus was continually alert to momentary opportunities for disseminating the Good News even in painful circumstances - see John 18: 28-40 / Luke 21: 1-4. When lengthier accompaniment was needed - as on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) – Jesus willingly gave it. We, too, given the opportunity can enlighten our fellow travellers perhaps helping to rekindle a doused faith. Such Christlike alertness requires us to be in daily communion with the Holy Spirit.
It would be understandable were we to focus on the ‘water becoming fine wine’ element of this Sunday’s Gospel. But John the Evangelist has woven so much more into his text.
Notice how John never presents Mary by name. Instead he refers to her here and throughout his Gospel as ‘the Mother of Jesus’. Could it be that John sees Mary’s role as more symbolic than personal? John tells us that the Mother of Jesus was already at the (Cana) wedding before her Son and his companions arrived. The inference being that their inclusion was due to Jesus’ Mother being a named guest. Is this John’s way of underlining how Mary, herself representing the Old Covenant, is also the harbinger of the New Covenant manifested in the appearance on earth of God-made-Man in the person of her Son, Jesus?
Maybe these points will support our reflection. They are, in part, based on the writings of J. Mateos y Juan Barreto, “El Evangelio de Juan”, Ediciones Chrstiandad, Madrid. 1979.
In recording the interaction between Jesus and his Mother, John continues to weave his teaching into the story. Jesus address his Mother as “Woman”.
There are just three women in the Gospel whom Jesus addresses using the word ‘Woman’ – (1) Mary, his Mother, (John 2:4 and 19:26), (2) the Samaritan at the well (John 4:21) and (3) Mary Magdalene (John 20:13)
Respectively, they could represent (1) Israel as the faithful spouse; (2) the unfaithful Israel called to embrace conversion and (3) the people of the New Covenant - the Baptised as the spouse of the Risen Christ.
Jesus’ response to his Mother’s unspoken request was: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”
Jesus made it clear that while he had not come to revitalise the Old Covenant, his “hour” for the implementation of the new order had not yet arrived. By her response, his Mother fulfilled her prophetical role by turning to the servants and telling them: “Do whatever he tells you.” In the Mother of Jesus’ words can we hear a reflection of Israel’s much earlier promise to God? “Everything the Lord has said we will do!” (Exodus 19:8)
John tells us, Jesus then initiated the first of his many ‘signs’ by which he would bring his mission to completion on the Cross on Calvary (John 19:30) At Cana, it was the generous provision of fine wine. On Calvary, it was the most generous provision of his life for our salvation.
Perhaps some of the foregoing may help you formulate an appropriate response when you next hear a reference to a ‘water into wine’ moment.