Celebrations. Our lives are full of celebrations when we gather with family and friends to commemorate those important moments in our lives.
Sometimes the celebrations come at the beginning of our lives like the birth of a child or today as we join with Tom & Michelle and the twins in celebrating Thomas Luke Caporaso’s baptism.
Sometimes the celebrations are bittersweet like the celebration held yesterday for Bud Mix. We mourn his death and celebrate his nearly 85 years of life, the things he did and the people he touched.
Another such celebration is a wedding. We celebrated a wedding this year with Beth & Darrell Harrington. I suspect there are families here that had weddings. It is one occasion where families are drawn together. Certainly the weddings at the time of Jesus were also family celebrations. But they were also much more.
Weddings and their celebration would last seven days! At these weddings, 2 families would gather to celebrate the marriage of their son and daughter, more importantly, these 2 families would be intimately linked together; And the celebration which would include invitations to all in the village or town, would have to be done well, the family honor is an important part of the public celebration that takes place.
A family, of course, would need lots of assistance from neighbors and friends to pull off such an event! Lots of cooking and materials (wine, water, food) were needed for such an undertaking. Gifts of wine were usually given in advance to the family hosting the celebration, so there would be enough on hand for 7 days. This helped the host family celebrate each day with those who would come. To run out of food or wine was a sign of family dishonor either in one’s finances or lack of friends.
With this in mind, we enter the scene in the Gospel of John: the wedding has taken place, Mary the Mother of Jesus is there with other women helping with the cooking and such. Were they kin? Friends? Neighbors?
We don’t know but we do know that Mary notices that the wine has run out and wants Jesus to help. Jesus as an invited guest has arrived with some of his disciples; as they participate in the feast, Mary tells Jesus to help out, to do something. Mary says, “the wine has run out.”
Jesus resists. “What concern is this to you and me? My time has not yet come.” Jesus is looking beyond the feast, beyond the immediate need…
Is Mary concerned because the lack of wine could dishonor her family including Jesus? Or does she know that Jesus can do something about it?
Like a good mother, Mary doesn’t listen to her son’s lack of concern. Do whatever he says, Mary tells the servants.
Jesus does not miss her insistence and tells the servants to fill the six large stone jars with water and then give the chief steward a taste.
Think about what it means to fill six large stone jars, each 20 or 30 gallons, it is quite an undertaking. There are no faucets, hoses for the servants to use, they have to fill them by hand with water from the village well.
After filling the jars, they present the water that has turned to wine to the chief steward, who is astonished at the good wine and compliments the bridegroom for keeping the good wine until now. There is now abundant wine, 180 gallons! Enough for the rest of the celebration (the days to come)!
From this, the disciples (and those servants) believed in him, the first of his signs, first of his miracles at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. The Word that became flesh, Jesus, has given us all a sign of his manifestation with the turning of water into wine.
If we left the story on this level, it would be a nice story about a miracle in a tiny village North of Nazareth with Jesus turning water into good wine. We could move on with our lives, and think nothing more of the first miracle.
But there is more to the story, because we must take our part. If we think of our lives and consider whether those empty stone water jars might be us, then we might see and hear this story in a deeper way.
Jesus who first manifested his divine self at the Wedding in Cana; offers us that new wine. We like Mary, and the disciples, and those gathered for the wedding feast, wait for our empty jars to be filled and made with new wine by Jesus.
The emptiness that we may feel at times, deep down in our souls, we often try to fill with food, power, drugs, sex, money, prestige, work, golf, football on tv but nothing quenches it.
But if we look to God to be the Wedding Guest in our lives, whether single or married, divorce or widowed, whatever our circumstances, our God of love would be in our midst, our God who is always ready to change our water into wine, who comes to fill our emptiness.
I believe St. Paul understood this as he writes to the Christians living in Corinth that the Spirit is blowing through our lives, moving all around us, this One Spirit that inspires, gives, empowers different kinds of gifts: the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by the Spirit, they are manifested for the common good.
We are called like the disciples, to follow Christ's call, to fill the emptiness of our lives, with the new wine that Jesus has made from the water of our lives and in that new wine is the Spirit, like a quenching fire that he has given to each us, these gifts of the spirit for our discipleship. We are blessed to use them for the common good.
As a priest friend in Nicaragua put it: "We need to fill up our empty water-pots and bring them to the toastmaster of our party, Jesus, the head of our church, and find the first miracles here in our Galilees."
God gives to us an abundance of gifts, in Jesus we have found a gift that fills our lives with meaning and hope and love. As we find the first of his miracles in our lives, may we find in celebrations together whether wedding feasts of friends and family, in a baptism or in this parish family as we gather around the altar for Eucharist, that Jesus is here offering his abundant love, and transforming us from empty jars to vessels brimming with his new wine. Amen.