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Saturday, 23 January 2016

Jesus at The Wedding at Cana

The Wedding at Cana
(click on the image to enlarge)
 

The title of this oil painting on canvas is "The Wedding at Cana".
It is 660 × 990 cm (259.8 × 389.8 in)  
and is painted by the artist "Paolo Veronese" (1528–1588)
 
This image sets the mood beautifully for
"The 2nd chapter of the Gospel according to John".
 
On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus was also invited to the marriage with his disciples. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘O'Woman, what concern have you do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now six stone water-jars were standing there 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 steward of the feast.’ So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyman serves the good wine first, and when men have drunk freely then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ This, the first of his signs Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
 
The following transcript taken from oral sermon presentation by Father Matthew Kirby

 Johns gospel tells us some important things about Jesus and his mother Mary.
 
We will start with Jesus.
He was no kill-joy. He was there to celebrate a marriage and all that goes with marriage. Our Lord sanctified marriage by his presence there. In fact, in the marriage services of the church, one of the things that they look back to in the liturgy is the attendance of Jesus at that wedding. Saying in a sense that by His presence there He sanctifies human marriage. It was already a natural sacrament but he sanctified it further by His presence. All that goes along with marriage and the baring of children and all the physicality of that, is something that God created and approves of.

Indeed, He is not just at a wedding, He is at a party. It is a celebration. It is a feast. It is a wedding feast. We know that in those days the feasts would go on for quite some time. Many people were invited. One of the major celebrations of a village was a wedding. Over an extended period people would drink the wine and there is Jesus present with all of this.  
 
He creates wine out of water.
He turns water into wine because they ran out, which in those days would have been a matter of great embarrassment and shame. It would have been a humiliation for the family but Jesus solves this problem for them by turning the water into wine. It is interesting the water that he chose was the water that was there for ceremonial purposes. Not ceremonious that the Old testament had demanded but ceremonies that the Scribes and the Pharisee and other Jews had created in order to make absolutely sure you were truly pure. They had these water pots there for purification, for people to wash their hands and so-on in them.

Jesus takes that water which is for one ceremonial purpose and turns it into another purpose, a more fun purpose you might say. And it is good alcohol, it is the good wine. “You have kept the good wine until now” . The fellow who is running the feast (the M.C.) is surprised, “this is amazing, you brought out the good wine at the end. Normally they bring it out at the beginning and then when people have drunk it and don't notice as much they bring out the bad wine”. This was over an extended period and the wine wasn't super strong in those days. It was over a period and people weren't expected to get drunk but they were expected to have fun.

People try to explain this passage.
They have said “Oh, No. It couldn't have possibly been wine as we understand wine. It couldn't have had alcohol in it. It must have been grape juice. The good wine meant grape juice and the bad wine was grape juice that had fermented.” That is really stretching things. Basically we are expected to believe that the alcoholic wine was the bad wine and the good wine was Ribena.

Neither now nor than would that have been the case for those people. They would not have associated Ribena with the good stuff. So I think we have to be honest about this passage. Yes, Jesus creates an alcoholic drink for them to enjoy. Not in excess. The Jewish people had rules about getting drunk and it was frowned upon. Especially at a wedding feast where you were meant to be honouring those present. But they were to enjoy it. They were to have fun. One of the things when people drink wine (but not to excess) is that it becomes a more social atmosphere. That was the intention of cause.

We can compare this attitude of Jesus to this celebration with the attitude we sometimes get. (As I say this, I remember reading a book by David Wilkinson, a nice fellow but he was convinced that the good wine must have been Ribena, basically grape juice).


We can compare that with a similar attitude back in the 17th Century when the Church Of England had to go underground because of the revolution. The King had been killed and the people we often know as puritans had basically taken over the government. There were a lot of things they didn't like. They weren't fond of Christmas because Christmas wasn't in the Bible. As far as they were concerned you weren't allowed to celebrate Christmas. There would be people going around ringing bells and saying “NO CHRISTMAS...NO CHRISTMAS”. I tend to think that is not a very effective way of doing things. It is like saying to people “whatever you do DO NOT THINK OF A PINK ELEPHANT... NO!... DON'T!... STOP!... Don't think of a pink elephant with wings!” Ahhh look what you've done.


“No Christmas. No Christmas”.... It wasn't only Christmas they didn’t like it was also the book of sports. They had burnings of the Book Of Sports. Before the Church of England went underground and there was still the King on the throne one of the things that had been produced by (I think) the King and approved by the church was The Book Of Sports. A book that said “these are the games and the fun things you can do on Sunday. That is your day of rest. Remember back then they didn't have a weekend of two days of rest each week. Back then they had only one day of rest, Sunday. So this Book Of Sports was produced to let people know there were innocent, harmless, fun activities they could do on the Sabbath day, Sunday, the Lord's day. Apart from going to church you could also do these other things and enjoy the day which was meant to be a day of rest and recreation with some fun. Well, the people who took over at that time after the revolution in England did not approve of the Book Of Sports. For them, all this having fun on Sunday was disrespectful so they burned these books. Fortunately the revolution was undone and the Church Of England came back from underground and that was all thrown in the dustbin of history. There have been Christians who felt that fun is bad, fun is evil. Jesus obviously wasn't one of them. Here He is at this celebration.

There is nothing here about overly puritanical hatred of simple human pleasures. Jesus does not disapprove of that. On the other hand he is hardly obsessed with them either. Mary comes to him (His Mother) and says there is a problem. They have run out of wine. He says (literally translated from the Greek) “What is that to you and to me?” So, he is saying that it is not a huge issue. It my have seemed so to the people there celebrating but in the big scheme of things running out of wine is not a huge issue. He is not obsessed with these things even though he approves of them. So, we do not have an excuse here. Even though Jesus attended a wedding and made wine it is not an excuse to be a person who lacks self

control and does what they like. It is not an excuse for what they used to call a dissipation (not caring, just behaving in an undisciplined, sinful way). There are no parts of our life where God is irrelevant or where we could not be called upon to exercise self control or self restraint.
 
Now, His words to Mary may not mean “What's it got to do with us?” “What has your concern got to do with me?” is another way of translating it. But note here that this apparently harsh response is put into context by what comes after. Jesus says what's that got to do with me, basically. How is that my problem? He knows that she has just asked him to do something about it, something unusual and this harsh response to his own mother. It is not the only time Jesus has a harsh response in the Gospel. Now I remind you again, why is the mother so concerned with the party running out of wine? Why is the Blessed Virgin concerned about it? Because it would have been somewhat humiliating for the people organising the feast. Jesus does not necessarily give a discouraging response because the need is trivial but because the time for public ministry and miracles has not yet arrived in his mind. He says “My time has not yet come” He doesn’t say "this is just rubbish”. He says “My time has not yet come”. That puts it into context. The other thing is that he still goes ahead and does the miracle anyway.
 
This is not the only time in the Gospels Jesus gives what sounds like a harsh answer. It is also a kind of encouragement for people not to take “No” for an answer.

We have a similar event when the Syrophoenician woman comes to Jesus and asks for a healing for her daughter. Jesus says “It's not right to give the bread to the dogs, it is for the children” and this initial “No” is actually ended up being a “Yes” because she didn't stop. She didn't give up. What does Jesus say to this woman? Jesus says to the Syrophoenician woman “Great is your faith” He actually commends the person who doesn’t take “no” (that initial harsh answer) as the final word. It was the same thing with Mary. Although He doesn't commend her faith by words He does by action, because He does what she want.

So, Jesus does not always say “Yes” the first time he is asked. He expects and challenges us to press beyond the apparent, initial “no” to the final “yes”. It is only an apparent “no” because He never actually says the word “no”. He says “My time has not yet come” or “Now what's that got to do with me” but He doesn’t actually say “No, I wont do anything about that”.

As great as the faith of the Syrophoenician woman was (who asked for the healing and kept asking despite the initial negative response) Mary's faith is even greater because she asks for this sign even before Jesus has started performing miracles. She knows He can do something about it. We have been told this is the first sign. This is the beginning. She knows before anybody else what He can do. We see Mary here as an intercessor (one who asks God / Christ for others). She does not impose her will, but she is persistent. It is interesting what she does. Jesus says “the time has not yet come” “What's this got to do with us?” so, what does she do? She goes to the servants (she doesn't even speak to Jesus) and she says “whatever He tells you to do – do it”. Now, that leaves it open ended. Jesus could have said “go and have a smoko outside” He didn't have to do anything. She just leaves it open ended and says “whatever He tells you to do – do it” leaving it up to him. She intercedes for those in trouble at the feast and she points to Christ. Her words are very significant “(do) whatever He tells you”.

Obedience to Christ.
This is the genuine Marion voice of the Blessed Mother directing us to her son. She doesn't direct us to herself but to her son. Mary's act of faith “(do) whatever He tells you” actually begins His ministry. We are told this is the first sign. In the same way her act of faith began His human life. What does she say when the angel comes to her and says that she will conceive? She says “be it unto me according to thy will” Again there is the principal of obedience to God. Then Elizabeth tells her later on “Blessed are you who believed” So her act of faith, in the face of what must have seemed an absurd statement that she would conceive and bare a son, she says “but I have not known a man” (literally in the Greek “I am not knowing a man”). In the same way here in the face of a difficult situation (Jesus hadn't started performing miracles yet) she says “what are you going to do about it?” She shows that Faith. Her faith began His human life and her faith began His ministry. That makes Mary the prototypical or first Christian just as Jesus is the archetype for Christians (the actual source of who we are, the pattern on who we are modelled). She is the prototype. The first off the block, so to speak.

We need to imitate Jesus in His simultaneous approval of and detachment from not spiritual human pleasures. That is what we learned from what Christ has shown us today. These things are good but they are not the most important thing.
We need to imitate Mary in her bold faith, press in and don’t give up in your prayers.
 

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