The Banquet At Cana
In his homily for 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, Father Hanly looks at Jesus’ words to his mother at Cana, words which at first glance seem brusque, and reveals their wonderful meaning.
Readings for Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
- First Reading:First Reading: Isaiah 62:1-5
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 96:1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10
- Second Reading: First Corinthians 12:4-11
- Gospel: John 2:1-12
Perhaps the most important thing that can be said about this Gospel is it shows the warmth of Jesus — the warmth of Jesus — and it shines through.
Now there are really two basic subjects: the first one is Jesus changes water into wine, which we all know pretty well, and the second one is life is a wedding banquet and Jesus is the host.
We are all familiar, in this parish, with wedding banquets, because we have so many of them. But to say that life is a wedding banquet, could be (inaudible). I think what you would have to add is life is a wedding banquet if you learn how to live it, and how to love it, and how to care for others.
Then maybe you can go home now, because that’s the sum and the substance of this whole episode in the Gospel: to learn how to love, to learn how to live, to learn how to care for others. And then, of course, life indeed is a wedding banquet.
Now, we’ll go over roughly the reading so that you can begin to understand maybe a little bit more about…
See, the trouble with John — he’s not the Baptist, John the Apostle — the trouble with John is he’s always on so many layers. He’ll say one thing and he means that, but he also means something else, and something else, and something else.
And it comes out very simple and you know everything, and then you find out you go over it and over it, and there’s more and more and more. So you want to run home now and read the Gospel according to John, Chapter 2, verses 1-11, you’ll get a very good understanding.
It begins with
There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee,
Now Cana is about ninety miles away from Jerusalem.
and the mother of Jesus was there.
You note he doesn’t say Mary was there; he says “the mother of Jesus was there.”
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short,
the mother of Jesus said to him,
“They have no wine.”
And what does Jesus say?
And Jesus said to her,
“Woman, how does your concern affect me?
My hour has not yet come.”
Now that’s the first little problem. You notice it’s always “the mother of Jesus,” “the mother of Jesus,” “the mother of Jesus.” And then Jesus calls her “Woman.” And it seems kind of brusque somehow. “How does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”
Is this the warm Jesus that we spoke about, who shines in Cana?
Well, you would have to know this: you would have to know, the first thing you would have to know is, “mother of Jesus” is very important, because mother of Jesus becomes mother of our church, Mother Mary.
We call her Mother Mary, and this is where it comes, because she is the mother of Jesus. Instead of Mary, John says, “No, it’s the mother of Jesus,” the mother of the children of God, the mother of all of us.
The next part was she says,
“They have no wine.”
You notice she didn’t say, “Could you do something about it?” She just talks clearly and says, “They have no wine.”
Now this is a catastrophe at a wedding, especially at a country wedding when these are not so common and when all the people of the village and the town are there and you invite them.
And these are not very rich people — ordinary people — and they give all they have to buy the best and the finest wine.
And what happens is it runs out and, of course, if you want to be a little cynical about it, maybe the reason it runs out is because the next to that line says Jesus and his disciples came. So they probably didn’t expect them and it came to them: they had no wine.
Mary loves Jesus enough and she knows him enough — after all, he’s her son and a very special son — they could talk without asking each other things like, “What are you going to do about it?” or “Maybe help them?” or “What’s wrong with this?” or…
All she has to say is, “They have no wine.”
And then Jesus puts it on another level. He says, “Woman.”
Now, “Woman” is a very special term in that period and that time. Woman with a capital W, Woman means Eve, the mother of all living.
Eve is Adam’s wife, and through Adam and Eve come, of course, the children. And so, to call someone Woman in this kind of context is to raise her to another level.
She is not just Jesus’ mother, although that is also emphasised, she is the woman who Jesus says, as he is dying on the cross, he says, “Behold your son,” and he means John the Apostle.
And then to John, he says, “And behold your mother.”
So now we have mother and Woman together.
Why does he do that?
Well, first of all, he’s a poet. Second of all, he wants everybody who reads this later on to know that Mary is very special. She has been given by her Son to us, the community of people who follow Jesus. And she is to be at the head of that community.
And that’s why, if you look carefully, today we have such a reverence for Mother Mary. We have such a reverence for her because she becomes the mother of all those who follow Jesus.
My hour has not yet come.
He means, of course, he must suffer, die, be buried and rise again. That’s his hour, the ultimate reason why he has come: to save the world by his suffering and death and giving himself for the sin of all mankind.
His mother didn’t take it seriously.
His mother said to the servers,
“Do whatever he tells you.”
“Do whatever he tells you” is reminiscent of the obedience of Mary, because when she was asked to become the mother of Jesus, she said to the angel, “But I know not man,” and the angel said to her that ”You have been blessed to become the mother of the Messiah.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings,
Right away John makes this a ceremonial religious ritual of washing and this was very true.
When we read in the Bible that a man was washing before going in to a meal, it didn’t mean he had dirty feet or dirty hands. It meant that it was a ritual washing.
A ritual ceremonial washing to Jewish people at that time meant that this is a sacred meal — and they’re talking about the wedding at Cana — this is a sacred meal. It is a meal in which everybody comes together in love and sharing and caring. It’s very important.
And it is a ceremonial washing. It means that through this I am washed clean, not because I’m dirty, but because I have given myself away from sin and pledging myself once again to God our Father.
As a comment though,
each holding twenty to thirty gallons
— each one of these jars — that’s a tremendous amount of wine.
And so then
Jesus told the them,
“Fill the jars with water.”
So they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them,
“Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”
So they took it.
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine,
without knowing where it came from
— although the servers who had drawn the water knew —,
the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him,
“Everyone serves good wine first,
and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one;
but you have kept the good wine until now.”
You probably didn’t notice this, but Jesus didn’t pronounce any words over the wine. It wasn’t like the Last Supper. In fact, all he says is, “Fill the jars with water and take them to the headwaiter.” And that was it.
What is John trying to tell us?
He’s trying to tell us that God is greater than the prayers of Jerusalem or even here. He doesn’t pray, he doesn’t bless, he doesn’t do anything, as if the wine will listen to what he has to say, or the water, and suddenly become wine.
It means that this is something extraordinary.
It means that Jesus is not just another messenger from God, to be the messenger who tells them of God’s love for them. It means that God Himself is present. It means that this is a sacred feast.
It means when we gather together in this church, it’s a sacred washing away. It’s a sacredness of offering ourselves to each other for caring and loving and sharing and all of these things, because we ourselves, each time we come here and come together for the sacrifice of the Mass, we are bound by eternal binds and we are in the presence of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God.
For the whole purpose of this reading is to say, not that Jesus the nice man who is full of warmth and kindness has come, but Jesus the Son of God has come, to lead us, not back to the old world, but a new world.
And he then becomes our Lord, our Saviour, our God.
And when we come together to eat and celebrate this event, as people do at a wedding, he is the groom of the wedding and, in a sense, we are all somewhat the bride of the wedding.
And it is all said so that we might understand that we sit in the sacredness of God’s love, God’s care, God’s willingness to become one with us through life, that he might share with us.
Since he shares our life, he now says that now I share my life with you.
And what is his life?
His life is divine. And that is what, at this moment, all the disciples suddenly realise that they have become one with Jesus, one with God, one with each other, in a new way of living.
And, of course, how do they express that?
At a banquet, full of joy, full of happiness, full of problems that can be solved because it is in the context of a love life, a love caring, a group of people that don’t just come, read a book and go home again, but learn that they were meant for each other, one God, one family.
That’s what it means. And that’s what, in John’s simple way, he wants us to understand that…
Now, here’s the last sentence:
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs
Now, John never talks about miracles, he always talks of signs.
And so the sign at Cana was God is with you, Emmanuel, the Lord is with you and God is with you, and you are destined to be with Him forever and ever.
At Cana in Galilee…
and so revealed his glory,
Glory, it sounds like (inaudible), but “to reveal your glory” means this: to reveal who you truly are.
Are you a messenger from God? Are you one who is just an ordinary person given a mission. Or what is it?
This true revelation of his glory is this: that, indeed, when they come in this crummy little village in this crummy little town with a bunch of farmers and experience this for the first time in the world, what has happened is the life of their families has changed, but, even more, the life of the world has changed.
Because for God, He looks upon the whole world as the banquet of His Son, entertaining and being with the people that He loves.
I think we’ve come to the end of that, but I’d like to add something, just a little bit now.
I took this out of one of the books that’s written by a theologian:
“When Jesus sees his mother and the beloved disciple, he says to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ And to the beloved disciple, he says, ‘Behold your mother.’
“Jesus calls his mother ‘Woman,’ both here and at Cana, because she is the new Eve, she is the new mother of all living in the new spiritual order that Jesus has established. Jesus’ mother, the ‘Woman,’ stands for the church and the mother of all the disciples of Jesus Christ.”
And that is why we call her now our mother, but more intimately, Mother Mary.