We are a people who are enamoured of improvements and upgrades. Rare is the individual who would settle for the least or the simplest. If we can find a way to get something better - especially if it costs nothing - we will take it. Why settle for the nosebleed seats if you can get a seat right next to the action? Why settle for the sardine can feel of economy when you could upgrade to first class comfort? Getting the best we can is what we desire in all of our affairs. Yet do we desire the best in our life with God?
As we enter into the time after Epiphany, entering into the Time throughout the Year or Ordinary Time, we are given a minor epiphany in our Gospel text today. Traditionally, the third epiphany celebrated in the sacred liturgy after the meeting of the Magi and the baptism of the Lord is the wedding feast of Cana. It is at this event that Saint John tells us in his Gospel account how those who had been following Jesus up to this point “began to believe in Him.” However, what is it they they begin to believe? They begin to believe that there is something more to this itinerant preacher than meets the eye.
Saint John recalls for us the occasion of what prompts as he calls it “the beginning of [Jesus’] signs.” People are gathered for a wedding feast, much as we do today: feasting and drinking and revelling in the joy of a newly-inaugurated marriage. In the time of Christ, it seems that it was the duty of the bridegroom to supply the wine for the feast, which could last up to seven days. But at this feast, we hear that the wine had been completely finished. What shall be done?
At the prompting of His immaculate Mother, Jesus will provide a rich bounty of wine: a wine, in fact, that is far better than what was at first provided. It is so good, in fact, that the headwaiter will complain to the bridegroom about holding this very good wine back up to now. It is this sign of water turning to wine which will cause the disciples to believe in Jesus as not merely a preacher, but as something else, someone whom Isaiah foretells in our first reading today: the heavenly Bridegroom come to be wed to His bride.
Isaiah is speaking to a dejected people: the Israelites have been exiled from the land promised them by God and seem to have been rejected. Many perhaps feel that God is no longer with them. Yet Isaiah prophesizes that this dejection will not last forever, that a day will come when not only will the Chosen People be restored to their former glory, but that an even greater event will occur: the Chosen People shall be united to their God “as a young man marries a virgin” and God will rejoice in them “as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride”. We see today the fulfillment of this prophecy in Christ bringing the good wine to the wedding feast: the eternal Bridegroom revealing Himself to His newly-chosen people, the Church.
From this point in His earthly life, Jesus will begin to preach and teach and work many more miracles, all of which is meant to draw humanity to Himself and be united with Him. The ultimate sign He will offer of this desire for unity and to demonstrate the depths of His love for His newfound bride will be on the Cross, of which He tells us: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32). Those outstretched arms on the Cross are not merely the tortures of the Roman soldiers, but they are also the open arms of a man desiring to draw His beloved to Himself.
But do we desire to be drawn to Him? Do we wish to partake of the wine He has brought for us? Many of the Church Fathers viewed this miracle of the water to wine as demonstrating the conversion of dull, sinful humanity into the sweet vessel of divine grace. It is meant to show our conversion from the old ways of sin and ignorance towards the new way in Christ. It is meant to represent the greatest upgrade we can ever achieve: from being the sinful sons and daughters of Adam and Eve into being the true sons and daughters of our heavenly Father, the souls united most clearly to Christ the divine Bridegroom.
This transformation, just like any other marriage, is meant to bring forth fruit. Saint Paul outlines some of that in our second reading in enumerating some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit poured out upon the Church. This is what is meant to happen in our relationship with Christ, both individually and communally as the Church; we are meant to bear the fruits of holiness. Above all, this is meant to be done through a richer and deeper participation in the act of receiving Holy Communion. Every time we receive that Sacred Host and let it pass our lips, we are meant to draw nearer to the Bridegroom who calls us to Himself, who calls us for Himself.
But do we let this happen? Do we allow ourselves to be transformed into wine by Holy Communion, or do we prefer to remain tasteless, colorless water, no different than before? Do we wish to produce the fruits of our union with Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, or do we remain empty, lifeless fields? To be a Catholic means to belong to Christ with and through His Church along with the desire to bring all peoples to know, love, and serve the God who has created us, who has redeemed us, and who is sanctifying us. All of this - the Mass, the sacraments, the preaching, the prayers - all of it is meant to lead us to unity with Christ as individuals and as a community. It is meant to transform us and to transform the world. But it must begin with each one of us. G. K. Chesterton once famously replied to a friend writing about what is wrong with the world by saying, “I am.” But I can make the world right if I am united to Christ in His Church and in His sacraments.
Let us pray, first of all, that we will receive the grace to accept the invitation of our divine Bridegroom to unity with Him. Without God, nothing is possible, but with Him, all things are possible. Let us pray as we receive Holy Communion today that we may be transformed from the water of indifference and timidity into the wine of fervor and intention. Let us desire to draw nearer to our Bridegroom through His Mother, who best exemplifies what she commanded in our Gospel today: “Do whatever He tells you.” Let us believe in Jesus and follow Him, just as all the saints and holy disciples have done throughout the ages, bringing forth the fruits of our relationship with Christ. Let our lives truly reflect a unity with Christ here and now, so that we may be worthy to join Him in the eternal wedding feast which awaits in Heaven.