Isaiah 62:1-5; 1Cor 12:1-11; Jn 2:1-11
A wedding is the formal occasion that signals the beginning of a marriage, which like all relationships has to be worked at as those relationships change over time. The theme of marriage runs through two of today’s readings and has a significant bearing on the third.
The prophet Isaiah was so convinced that the broken relationship between God and his people that led to their exile in Babylon would soon be restored. He couldn’t stop talking about it. He was so certain that God would once again rescue or redeem his people that he battered the throne of grace with prayer for it to happen. The prophet would not back off or down, he knew what he must do, and he knew that he depended on the the mysterious, unpredictable power of God’s spirit.
He announced to his people that when the reconciliation takes place it would be obvious for all to see. Other nations would notice the difference in God’s people. The Children of Israel would no longer be called ‘forsaken’ by God or ‘desolate.’ They would be God’s ‘delight,’ and the relationship between them would be one of love. Isaiah says that this marriage would not only occur between God and his chosen people but it would be a marriage between heaven and earth and include the Gentiles as well. The prophet did not know when or how this would happen, just that it would, so he kept on praying.
St John’s gospel is written on the understanding that a marriage took place between heaven and earth through the life of Jesus, and he sets the scene for that belief by beginning his story at a village wedding in Cana of Galilee. This wedding took place ‘on the third day’, a phrase in Judaism which describes a life changing event. The village wedding is the beginning of the marriage between heaven and earth that was sealed and consummated through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Note that the resurrection took place ‘on the third day, so John begins and ends his gospel by recalling events that occurred on the third day.
At the wedding in Cana of Galilee, Jesus’ mother was present. She represents the Old Covenant of Judaism based on the Ten Commandments. The disciples were also there, the group to which Jesus would explain the New Covenant or New Commandment based on the love he would show them.
The wine ran out. Disaster was imminent. A real crisis existed. Mary did not tell Jesus what to do, but brought the situation to his attention. That is what intercession is about. It is not about promoting a political agenda or telling God what he should do or how to fix things. It is bringing people and situations into the realm of God’s loving mercy and care. Jesus felt that his mother was pushing him to act before he was ready and he responded by saying that “his hour had not yet come.” Ignoring this, Mary told the servants to do what Jesus commanded. John tells there were six water pots used for the Jewish rites of Purification and they were used for the rites of weddings. John deliberately mentions the number of them and he would have been well aware that there should have been seven. So what point is he making in giving us this detail? The water was turned into wine, because for Jews a wedding without wine is not a wedding. This was because of their belief that weddings were a symbol of the heavenly feast which would occur at the end of all things when God’ Kingdom is established.
Let’s jump on a little. Just before the Last Supper when Jesus was teaching in the Temple, he said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jn 12:23). During his crucifixion he cried out, “I thirst” (Jn 19:28). St John then tells us that there was a jar of raw wine (vinegar) at the foot of the Cross, so Jesus was given some to drink off a sponge. Is John telling us that this is why there was a jar missing at the wedding of Cana of Galilee? Does Jesus drink from this jar to complete the wedding between heaven and earth? After he had received this wine, he cried out, “It is finished”, or “It is accomplished”, he died. The wedding was over, the marriage has begun. God’s glory was fully shown on the Cross and recognized by those who respond in love.
The community of the New Covenant, the Church, was formed with Jesus as the groom and the faithful as the bride. Like all relationships it has to be worked at, and each disciple has his or her part to play.
Isaiah knew he depended on God’s Spirit and St Paul told the Corinthians that when a person begins to live as a disciple the same Holy Spirit motivates him or her. God’s Spirit enables us to do what we cannot do in our own strength. Once we are committed disciples he gives us gifts for our ministries. These gifts are all of equal importance but we are not given them to make us look good. We are given them so that the whole community will benefit and grow. No one person is given all of the Spirit’s gifts, and no one receives none. They are gifts, so we cannot demand or choose them. This is why St Paul tells us to work together because like the organs of our body, there must be unity. Body parts do not survive for long separated from the rest of the body. This co-operative action must occur at the local level as well as in the wider Church.
By and large, the people of the Western World have stopped listening to the Church’s teaching, and that includes many who claim to be members of it. They are being seduced into the secular thinking that humans can do what they like so long as they don’t harm anyone else.
We know the wedding between heaven and earth has occurred, so what do we do? Pope Francis urges us to be merciful, not judgmental, but that doesn’t mean abandoning or watering down the teachings that God has given us. If people have stopped listening, then we will have to make them see. This has happened before. St Benedict lived in a similar world, so he took to the hills and created communities that became the cornerstone of a new civilisation.
We cannot take to the hills, but we can and must learn what the Church teaches, be prayerful and faithful in worship and live the Catholic life. If the world will not listen, it must be made to see what it is to live in a deep relationship with God. Truth, beauty and goodness will prevail because they are positive. So don’t play at being Ordinariate Catholics, be the real deal so what others see with their eyes, they might also believe in their hearts.
Monsignor Entwistle is the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. Educated at St Chad's Theological College, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England Diocese of Blackburn in 1964. After reception into the Roman Catholic Church, he was ordained to the priesthood in St Mary's Cathedral, Perth on 15 June 2012.