And we saw His glory.
‘There was a wedding feast in Cana, in Galilee.’
It was by the sign worked at the marriage feast that Jesus entered the public arena, and chose to manifest His Divinity and His Mission for the first time. He allowed His Mother, Mary, to instigate this: a miracle.
However, this miracle which is now so well-known was performed with great discretion. The conversation Jesus had with His Mother was private, and nobody saw the moment the miracle took place. Even the Evangelist himself did not see it.
Neither the guests, nor the master of the feast, nor the newly-weds were aware of what was going on. It was only the servants who knew that where there had once been water, there was now wine. A young guest had asked them to fill the pitchers with water, and they were now full of wine. And the feast went on. And Jesus returned to His Mother.
The Gospel tells us that He revealed His glory, but only the disciples saw His glory shine forth: ‘His disciples believed in Him.’ Jesus did not do this for the sake of the crowd of guests, but for His own small band. Just as will always be the case, the least miracle is always, first and foremost, a sign: what is given to be seen, is first of all given to be believed.
The significance of that wedding feast at Cana far surpasses the provincial context of that country wedding. It was meant for whoever has eyes to see, for whoever can apply some theological thinking, for John the Evangelist, and perhaps for us, who are reflecting on it today.
St John understood that Jesus was starting His preaching from the very point where the prophets of the Old Testament had ended theirs: the marriage of God to His people.
Before the coming of Jesus, before His Incarnation, Humanity had no wine. The wine that Jesus brings is the wine of grace, which quenches, disinfects and heals; that same good wine which the Samaritan poured on the feet of the man left for dead by the side of the road; the wine of justice and mercy.
Jesus did not want to make the wine out of nothing, but out of the water in the pitchers brought by the servants. In the same way, His mission is not to create something new out of nothing, but rather to bring the old covenant to perfection, and restore mankind to God. The new Covenant, drawn from this new wine, which is the blood of Christ, is the wedding ring of God and His people. The young wife changes her name from now on, she takes the name of her husband from the day of their marriage. Now she is called the Bride of Christ.
A new love is carved in the midst of this alliance: its name is charity. Charity is the nuptial bond between Christ and the Church. Whoever fails to understand that has not understood the Church at all, nor the Christian life. To reduce the Church to its history, or its sociology, or to reduce Catholics to their failures and infirmities, is to remain on the outside. When one does not look at the interior reality of things, even the outside remains incomprehensible. There are people who are capable of mixing an excellent Bordeaux wine with water – or even with Coca Cola! And a wine that is kept for too long without being drunk, turns to vinegar. In the same way to look at the Church with any look other than Christ’s is to fail to understand the wine of Charity, the mystery of the Church.
But if one does look within, one discovers a more subtle wine. Such is the nectar of a spiritual marriage, the wine of the marriage of Christ and the soul. This is not a wine only for the initiated: it is offered to everyone.
The marriage of Christ to the soul is the vocation of every Christian. By the very fact of his baptism, he is promised that marriage, the bond is sealed. The marriage is the baptismal grace, which conquers like love, like a personal story. God desires to live in that soul.
And so we must look after that soul, make it habitable, not create an unpleasant impression for the Bridegroom when He crosses the threshold, as if we had forgotten that He was invited, as if nothing is ready, with disorder everywhere so that we have to improvise everything at the moment of His arrival.
How many times must the Bridegroom of the soul put up with the incoherence of His bride! Of course, she is not a bad girl, but she is a little superficial and ungrateful. She speaks before thinking, and acts before praying. Instead of drinking of her husband’s rich win of charity, we see her get drunk on watery beer and cheap plonk. The groom awaits: He is patient. So why had you left already? Where were you? Is this the time for you to come back? I had prepared something for you, I had so many things to say to you!
‘There was a Wedding feast at Cana in Galilee…’
‘Blessed are those invited to the Lamb’s feast!’
The wine which He serves comforts us. This wine is the Blood of the Lamb, sacrificed on the altar of the New Covenant.
Today, Jesus is calling us to the wedding feast of the soul: we were water – may He make wine of us.
The Raising of the Widow’s Son. (Christ’s compassion for our human nature)
When Jesus works a miracle, it is to reveal something to us. He doesn’t just return someone to life in order to return him to life; or heal someone simply to heal him. It is also to reveal to us that He is the Life; that He can heal. The truth is, that He returns someone to life in the way that only God can; He heals in the way that only God can.
That is why each one of His miracles has a theological aspect; after Cana, we see in the raising of the widow’s son at Naim another reality made visible.
It is also a reminder, a re-visiting of the Old Testament. With every miracle, Jesus makes us recall this passage from the prophet Isaiah: ‘We will see the glory of the Lord, the splendour of our God, and the eyes of the blind will see, and the ears of the deaf will be opened, the lame will leap like a stag, and the mutes’ mouth will sing out with joy. Those whom the Lord has saved will return.’ Once again we are seeing here the glory of the Lord, the divinity of Jesus. The sick are healed and the dead are brought back to life, and they return because they have been ransomed.
The purpose of this miracle is to show forth the glory of the Lord. Jesus makes the bed-ridden dance, makes the dead walk, and the theological resonance is to show that redemption has come.
Our healing is being accomplished: that is the lesson that Jesus is teaching. His purpose is to manifest the mystery of God, and His teaching is to make us understand that our redemption is accomplished.
Nonetheless, this healing, destined for all, must be made little by little, and gently, for there are some medicines which are so powerful that they risk killing the sick person. That is why the public aspect of the miracles differs. Often, Jesus forbids people from talking about them, and He performs the miracle almost in passing, discretely. He forbids people from talking, but that is in vain, because everyone will talk about a miracle.
Notice how Jesus proceeds here. He is first of all moved with compassion for this mother, the mother of an only son. He too knows what it is to be the only Son of His mother.
The mother was a widow: the Fathers of the Church have seen in this mother the Church; the Church which accompanies man, who is afflicted by the death of sin for the whole of his terrestrial journey. The Church, which enables man to encounter the grace of the Resurrection: the Church, our mother.
The miracles of Jesus are worked with great discretion, and Jesus reveals who He is progressively. First, to the Chosen People, Israel; only afterwards to the rest of the world. He moves from the inmost to the outermost. In fact there is one people chosen: the whole of humanity, chosen by God. But because so vast a love is incomprehensible for our dry and hardened hearts, God chose first of all, in order to teach us, to realise His plan of salvation initially through a specific people: Israel, and then to expand it. It is therefore true that the Church is the chosen people, following on from the election of the people of Israel. And Jesus’ purpose was to show that salvation is already underway.
His habitual way of doing that is by miracles. And a miracle is always concrete. Jesus gives life back to the soul by way of the body. And He does it with authority. He draws near, He touches the coffin, the coffin-bearers stop, and He says: ”young man, I say to you, arise!’ And immediately the dead man got up. Jesus likes to operate like this: He doesn’t save at a distance, but by grasping the young man. And it is clear that everyone in the funeral procession recognised Jesus’ authority. In the same way, one does not invent one’s God, one’s religion, or one’s Church. One does not pardon oneself. One receives forgiveness from someone else. Resurrection is received.
And Jesus stops the procession, touches the coffin, and returns the son to His mother. Everything is received from Him. There is always a great danger in constructing a religion that is distant and cerebral, where everything is arranged with a God who never has to put Himself out.
Jesus is seized by compassion: and thus he shows us His human nature; He works the miracle, and thus He shows us His Divine Nature; for God alone is the master of life and death.
This miracle restores Faith: everyone said, God has visited His people.
Faith is not complete unless it is spoken, confessed, proclaimed. The Christian cannot be clandestine: he must proclaim the Faith that lives in his soul. The Christian who is unmoved by another, or who hides the fact that he is a Christian, is a dead Christian.
This page of the Gospel is really vivid: the gates of the city, the funeral procession, the only son, the weeping mother, and lots of people. And Jesus halts this dignified and emotional crowd. He wants to demonstrate that from now onwards, salvation is close at hand, with means that are both more divine and more human. And He demonstrates it in His own person. God is not a distant God: He has the face of Jesus, and is full of compassion. That is at the same time both unexpected and embarrassing.
It is easy to ignore an idea. But it is difficult to turn our eyes away from such a look. From now on, our situation with regard to God is a face-to-face encounter.
And a face-to-face encounter is never simple. In short, Jesus shows us that God has made contact with us. Instituting a face-to-face encounter, He also demonstrates it to us in the salvation He offers us, in Him and after Him. It is the Church that leads us on the path to the Resurrection. The Sacraments are realities that accomplish in us what Jesus has inaugurated: an interior resurrection.
And if Jesus’ miracles are so physical, that also serves to remind us that we cannot live as Christians without a real acceptance of the world and of the body. Washed, oiled, nourished, taught and pardoned by a human voice; touched by signs and symbols, gestures and words: all of these things are so physical yet also so spiritual: these are the Church and the Sacraments. They are not mere signposts. They are efficacious signs of our salvation, the realities of our salvation. It was not for nothing that God created us with a body that lives and suffers, that hungers, thirsts, loves and moves. Moreover in heaven our salvation will be perfectly realised with our body duly resuscitated, glorified, and raised to its true greatness. That is our vocation – for all of us.
Let us end with another miracle of Our Lord: His Transfiguration
Fundamentally, the Transfiguration is a foretaste of Heaven. The friendly meeting on Mount Tabor is a prefigurement of the holy friendship which will unite us all in God, without any shadow or pretence. ‘How good and sweet it is for brothers to live together,’ says the Psalmist. ‘It is good for us to be here,’ answers St Peter.
How good it will be for us to be in Heaven, to engage in tireless conversation with Our Lady and the Apostles, the holy martyrs, doctors, confessors and virgins. And above all with Christ Himself! This eternal friendship in Heaven is the fruit of our Saviour’s sacrifice. It is up to us to make our way there, every day and every moment of our life.
The Transfiguration: a model of our own Transfiguration
But finally, by means of this miraculous scene, it is our own transfiguration that Our Lord wishes to teach us. Not that the glory that God has reserved for us should be manifested here below! That would not be very good for our humility…
A change of heart: that is what God wants of us! He will send us His transforming grace, only on condition that we ask for it. It is up to us to make the first step towards Him, because ‘God who created us without us, will not save us without us.’ Our transfiguration is a joint work of nature and grace. It is up to us to desire this transformation of ourselves. Let us not delay in putting this into practice: we should not keep God waiting! It is up to us to help ourselves, to give up our old habits, to flee the daily grind. ‘I have spoken, now I will begin,’ sings the Psalmist
Therefore, as it is never too late to start, let us climb Mount Tabor, to fill ourselves with the presence of God, and ceaselessly sing the glory of our Saviour.
For it is there that Jesus shows forth His glory, and prepares the chosen three apostles for the drama of the Passion.
There is no joy without the Cross.
God takes care of everything we abandon to His care. Let us give Him whatever we have refused to give Him up till now. For, to love is to give everything.