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1st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fr. Paul Koetter
Sunday, January 17, 2016 - 9:00am

Everybody loves a wedding. The affection so ardently expressed by the bride and groom, the festive dresses, the handsome tuxes, the glorious flowers, the sacred music, the thrilled gathering of family and friends, the heartwarming laughter that fills the halls of the reception, the spontaneous dancing that motivates everyone to join in … all of it creates a moment of unforgettable joy and delight.

Over the years I have had many weddings and although nothing tragic or hilariously funny has happened, there have been some interesting occurrences

  1.  The time I almost forgot a wedding…I won’t give you the details but it has become my nightmare!
  2. The time the photographer did forget the wedding!
  3. The Catholic/Greek wedding when we danced around the altar three times.
  4. The  Catholic/Jewish wedding when the groom smashed the wineglass, wrapped in a linen napkin, as they left the altar.

 Today Jesus is at a wedding.  Let’s look at this story more closely, because as we know something very unusual happened!

First, we need to realize that this gospel is from St. John.  John used a lot of symbolism in the stories that he told so that we should always search for not only the obvious meaning, but what would have been the symbolic meaning.  Keep this in mind as we negotiate this miracle.

This story occurs at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  He has not begun preaching and healing yet, although he has gathered some of his disciples.  They are all at wedding, including Jesus’ mother, Mary.  Know that weddings in Jesus day were huge events.  The whole town would have been invited and it might have lasted several days.  This still occurs today.  A few years ago when I was the Holy Land I was talking to a young man who had recently gotten married.  He talked about the multi-day event and I asked, “How many people came to your wedding celebration.”  He stopped for a moment and thought, finally saying, “Over the three days…maybe 3,000!!!”  So, even today, a wedding in the Holy Land is a big event!

At the wedding feast, Mary is the first to notice that they are running out of wine.  She goes to Jesus and simply announces the problem, “They have no wine.”  Jesus says, “Woman, how does your concern affect me?  My hour has not yet come.”  Mary is asking simply a practical question, “I don’t want this young couple to be embarrassed so you could you help them with the wine problem.”  Remember, wine was the common drink in those days.  Jesus’ response is filled with theological overtones.  Calling his mother, “woman” seems rather strange, but it was a term endearment and it also recognizes her as a woman of faith.  “My hour has not yet come” refers to Jesus role as Messiah and Lord.  It is not time yet!  Remember, near the end of his life at the Last Supper Jesus will say, “My HOUR has come.” In other words, redemption is now.

Mary does not argue with Jesus, but tells the servants, “Do what he tells you.”  Mary is a woman of deep faith, trusting that her Son will somehow do something and help this young couple. She stands as a powerful example of simply trusting in Jesus, not knowing the exact answer.  Does that ring true with any of us?  How often does it happen that we are being asked to trust in Christ without knowing what the answer will be.  Mary did not know he would change water into wine; she just knew that he would do something.

We know the story. Jesus directs the servants to fill with water six stone jars which were used for Jewish ceremonial washings according to the Law of Moses, each jar holding 20-30 gallons!! Oh my gosh!  That is huge.  Now, remember each of these steps is filled with theological overtones.  This excessive amount is St. John’s way of showing the generosity of Jesus, who will not be outdone.  The excessive amount of wine is telling us that God is generous beyond expectation.  God’s Grace overflows beyond boundaries!  God is so good in his love and mercy, forgiving us, loving us with excessive generosity.

In the story, Jesus directs the servants to now take some new wine to the head caterer, who calls the groom to congratulate him on saving the best wine till later!

The type of water jars is also filled with symbolism.  Remember these were jars to be used for ceremonial washings that were required by the Law of Moses, the old Covenant.  Hands had to be washed before eating as well as dishes and utensils.  When we see the water jars for use by the old covenant of the Mosaic Law being used for the new wine of Jesus, we are seeing a movement from old to new; from Old Testament to New Testament; from Moses who gave the Law, to Jesus will fulfills the Law and begins the new covenant of redemption

So where are we in this story?  First, I believe Mary stands as an example of faith and trust before God.  As I said earlier, she trusted in Jesus’ response without knowing what he would do.  This is huge.  Most of us want to know an answer and we want to know it now!  Trusting in Christ’s abiding presence; a presence that will bring us to a redemption; a new beginning of goodness. 

This is especially difficult when someone we love is suffering.  We see no obvious goodness coming from the suffering and we are left with more spiritual confusion than clarity.  Suffering will always be a mystery to us: why does it happen? Why does it happen to this person? Why must it happen now?  We are asked to sit with the mystery of suffering, trusting that Jesus is with us and that even when we can not see it, Jesus brings meaning into our pain and suffering.

We are also in this wedding story in the place of the servants.  Mary comes to them and simply says, “Do what he tells you.”  Mary continues to whisper those words to us today, telling us to listen to her Son and to “Do what he tells you.”  The role of Mary is to point the way to her Son, Jesus.  Our role is to listen to his call and faithfully follow him each day.

Finally, we are in this story as the young couple who got married.  In the midst of their celebration, Jesus is with them and celebrates their wedding also.  Jesus is happy for them; rejoices with them; dances with them.  There is every reason to believe that Jesus enjoyed the wedding and the celebration that followed.  Can we imagine that Jesus celebrates our big days?  When the baby is born, Jesus rejoices; when the vows are taken, Jesus celebrates; when the job is achieved, Jesus smiles; when the Christmas dinner was a success, Jesus too is content.  Jesus rejoices with us, and he is there to help us through those embarrassing and troubling times when things do not go as planned.  When our wine runs dry, he is there!

Trust in Him even when you don’t know what he is going to  do.

Listen to Mary who says to us, “Do what he tells you.”

Know that Jesus comes to rejoice with us.