CAMINANDO WITH JESUS: Made for Joy
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
- John 2:1-11(NRSV)
I sometimes forget
that I was created for Joy.
- Attributed to Hafez
Have you ever been part of a family doing wedding preparations? Maybe you were the bride or the groom. Or perhaps a friend of the bride or groom. Maybe you have been involved as a member of the wedding party in the church service. Maybe you played your part as an invited guest who rejoiced with the newlyweds at the church or at the party that followed. In whatever capacity we may participate, weddings have a way of moving us. Weddings are profound, iconic moments that stir our hearts, celebrations not only of the happy couple but also signs of the deeper connections that unite us one to another in the human family across our variety of traditions, cultures and differences. Weddings can mean all that—and so much more.
In St. John’s gospel, a wedding marks the beginning of public ministry for Jesus after he gathers a group of disciples around him. With his disciples and his mother, he is present at the wedding banquet, which in those days was not by any means a short reception with cake and a toast. (To be clear: there’s nothing wrong with a simple reception in our times; I have to say that, as a priest, I have seen too many costly and extravagant wedding that only made life very difficult thereafter for the couple and their families.) To set the scene and to understand the local expectations, know a wedding party was expected to be long and filled with so much food and wine that people would have to stop eating and drinking long before the platters and flagons were empty. Perhaps this expectation transcends that time and place? I’m mindful that in Latino cultures wedding parties can go on far into the night!
But the wine runs out. I wonder if the family didn’t have enough resources to begin with. Or if too many people crashed the party. Or wine production was down at the time. We don’t know.
(Another side bar: I’m mindful that while we may, with the Psalmist, give thanks to God for “wine to gladden our hearts” (Ps. 104:15), alcoholism is very much a painful reality in the human family, including the Church. Today is an opportunity to remember with prayer and compassion those who live with this disease and their families.)
Jesus seems convinced it’s too soon in his ministry for him to do anything about the crisis that threatens to bring an abrupt end to the party. But his mother’s persistence pays off. The Blessed Virgin Mary’s own sense is that this is a perfect time to intervene. The festivities must continue. The celebration means so much to the community. Joy matters! And so it is that Jesus, with a few words of instruction, not merely saves the party but makes it memorable for all the ages by his turning water into wine—and the finest of wines at that! And so, we may say with the mother of our Lord that it is never too soon for joy!
Joy matters. We live through times that daily try our souls while threatening public health and the well-being of the world. I need not recap the troubles of the world, do I? But the point is that we have a choice. We can get bogged down in the difficulties we face and watch the party dissolve before our eyes, or we can remember that the one who turned water into wine came to make sure that joy is the axis on which the world truly turns. We were made for joy! Just as there is a peace that surpasses understanding, there is a joy that transcends circumstances because love has made all things and will unite heaven and earth in the grandest of all banquets, the mega-feast that has no end, the marriage feast of the Lamb that was slain but has risen so that all may have life and have it abundantly.
I wonder if we, you and I, are the water that daily needs to be turned into glorious wine, as signs and bearers of peace, joy and love.
The Rev. Daniel Robayo is the missioner for Latino/Hispanic ministries in the Diocese of North Carolina.
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