Veronica Lawson RSM
8 January 2013
Today’s liturgy invites us to take a detour into the Fourth Gospel and into a marriage scene that the evangelist John places at the beginning of Jesus’ Galilean ministry.
Marriage imagery appears from time to time in Israel’s prophetic tradition, sometimes in quite confronting ways, especially in Hosea where God is imaged as husband and Israel as God’s faithless wife. In the first reading from the post-exilic prophecy of Third Isaiah, Jerusalem is the bride, once alienated from God and then fully reconciled with and embraced by God, its ‘builder’.
The link between the Isaian passage and the marriage at Cana is fairly tenuous, although the juxtaposition of the two readings in the context of today’s liturgy invites us to consider the intimate relationship that our Earth and its inhabitants enjoy with God, its ‘builder’ or creator. God’s delight is in Earth and the Earth community, not simply in one city and one people of the Earth.
The focus in the gospel story is less on the marriage, however, than on the symbolism of the abundance of wine at the marriage feast. The 8th century prophet Amos had looked to a future time when the mountains would drip sweet wine, and the hills flow with it, a time when God would restore the fortunes of God’s people. An abundance of good food and the best of wines is the image of future salvation deployed by another 8th century prophet, Isaiah (Isaiah 25).
Today’s gospel suggests that these prophetic dreams come to fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth. Those who listen to his word and follow his instructions become agents of an extraordinary transformation.
The mother of Jesus features significantly in the Cana story. She is attentive to the integrity of the feast and informs her son when the wine gives out. This provides the opportunity for Jesus to speak of his ‘hour’: it has not yet come. Jesus addresses his mother as ‘Woman’. He will address her in precisely the same way when the ‘hour’ of his death and handing over of the Spirit finally comes.
This ‘woman’ believes in him and invites the servants at the marriage feast to obey his word. While Jesus performs this first ‘sign’ that leads his disciples to faith, the role played by this faith-filled woman casts her in the role of ‘witness to the light’ and proclaimer of the Word.