There are two reasons I’m only now writing last Sunday’s post. The first is because the plumber made us replace all the cabinets in our tenant’s apartment. It’s been a hassle, though kinda fun, and I hope it’s been good for me.
The other reason is that when I did sit down to write last week, I was overwhelmed by the readings. John’s Gospel is ridiculously deep, too many things to say: it’s overwhelming in that way.
But first I was overwhelmed by the reading from the end of Isaiah: “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent . . . . As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you.” It too is rich just as a text. For example, who is speaking? These words are the Prophet Isaiah’s, but they are also Christ’s—and they should be ours, too. We should be unable to keep silent (and my silence here is a sign of my inability to live up to that call).
Richest of all, though, is the promise, the Lord’s love for us. I’ve been sinking into the depression of this time in the Church. As a seminary professor, I see and hear too much. I can believe that “people call you ‘Forsaken’ or your land ‘Desolate.’” But my heart breaks at the claim that “you shall be called ‘My Delight,’ and your land ‘Espoused.’” It is too much to believe that “the Lord delights in you” so that “nations shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory,” that “You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord.”
That, in fact, is the real reason for the textual richness of John and Isaiah. The Bible and the liturgy over-abound with richness, because the God of Jesus Christ loves us, and offers us so much more than we can imagine. He takes our water and turns it to wine.
Seeing that promise on the page of Scripture the other day, I just closed my computer and gave up. Given all my sins and weaknesses, given all the sin and weakness I see around me, can these promises be true? That is the absurdity of the Gospel.
Yet our reading from First Corinthians claims the Spirit is at work, giving each of us the gifts the Church needs, so that all together, if we do not withdraw, do not give up, Jesus can work his miracles of rebirth through us.
“There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. . . .”
I offer just two thoughts.
First, look at the jars. “Six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.” Literally “six stony water things”—and big ones. In the Gospel, stone is the cheerless stuff that the Father will not give us when we ask for bread, and the way he describes ground where seed cannot grow.
But there is also a chosen stone, which the builders rejected, a corner stone. And that One who entered into our stony world changes our stony hearts. Those stony water jars signify our world, which seems so unchangeable and set in its ways—and which Jesus can fill with wine.
The water is “for Jewish ceremonial washings.” But the Jewish ceremonies, like the Baptism of John, cannot take away our sin—not even the blood of bulls and goats, which is only a shadow of the good things to come (Hebrew 10). It could only tell us there is a problem. Without Christ, our natural perspectives, and even the Law, can only show us what a disaster this world is, how badly we need to be changed.
But there are six jugs. That is the number of creation, of nature, and of natural law: complete in itself, yet waiting for the newness of the seventh day, when God’s love will come down.
We need to step beyond this stony natural world. And when we do, the water of John’s Baptism becomes the wine of the Eucharist, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
Wine is inebriating and celebratory, it is disorienting, both bitter and sweet, and unveils the joys of the wedding feast. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the unveiling of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8).
Come Lord Jesus!
One more thought: “The mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited [no, ‘called’] to the wedding.”
Mary shares in our flesh, and above all in our weakness. She can do nothing. And yet in his union with Mary, Jesus comes down into our dryness, to our weddings without wine. All she can do is open her heart to him, show him the agony of this longing world, and trust that if we do whatever he tells us, all will be made new.
In union with Mary, let us adopt that heart. Come Lord Jesus!
What problems are you trying to fix without Jesus?