By Carolyn Shields
The Wedding at Cana is one of my favorite passages in the New Testament because every time I pray with it, I always learn something new. It’s like the Parable of the Prodigal Son—I always interiorly groan thinking, "Not this one again…haven’t I gleaned everything there is to learn from this?” And like a kid with a jack-in-the-box, I’m continually surprised when new truths emerge from familiar scripture, especially from the stories we know like the back of our hand. #everancient #evernew
We know this one: Jesus is at a Wedding. With His mom. The wine runs short. Mary calls Jesus over, and He performs a miracle.
Though the storyline is simple enough, there’s just so much in this powerful passage. Let’s break it down.
The Blessed Mother
One of the first things I learned from this Gospel back in college was how the Blessed Mother notices what we need before we even notice it ourselves, and she’s already interceding for us before it’s even brought to our attention. Mary notices that the wine is running short and immediately finds Jesus. How beautiful is it to think that even before we notice the cracks inside our hearts, or the upcoming struggles of the day, Mary is already talking to Jesus about it.
Her Second Fiat
This insight is by far my favorite and it’s precisely why this passage is so powerful to me. We all know of Mary’s fiat at the Annunciation, but I can’t help but to think of this as her second. For thirty years Jesus obeyed His mother, and it was as if He waited until she said “Okay, begin your ministry” for Him to start revealing who He was. And it all happened at Cana. Mary was the one who approached Him. Jesus didn’t notice the wine and decided to change it on His own, privately, but Mary initiated it. She probably drew in a deep breath because she knew she was telling Him that it was okay if He took His first step to Calvary. By asking Him to do this, she was saying “Okay. I’m letting you go. Reveal your glory.”
But guys, it gets better. Because Jesus even says, “Woman, how does your concern affect me?”
It was like He was giving her an out. Mary could have breathed a massive sigh of relief, a “Whew, okay, never mind.” But she persisted. She was strong enough to let Him go, in this moment. She stood her ground when it was probably the last thing she wanted to do. And her response? She drew others into it and said, “Do whatever He tells you.”
Which brings us to our next insight. Mary gathered others in to witness the miracle. My spiritual director once encouraged me to reflect on this, to ask myself how I might draw others in to witness His glory. Not only this, but this gospel is about awareness. We need to not only be aware of how others are feeling or what is going on around us, but to be moved enough by it to act. Mary didn’t just notice something amiss…she acted.
And Jesus looked at His mom, and I cant fathom what transpired in that silent exchange. And then He called for the servers to participate in the miracle. He wants our participation. He wants us to roll up our sleeves and carry the stone water jars; He wants us to bring Him loaves of bread and fish; He wants us to pick up our cross. Ever wonder why we use bread and wine at Mass? Part of the reason is because both are made with our hands: it requires “work of human hands.” It requires our participation.
The First Miracle
So we know what happens next. Jesus has the servers gather the jars and fill them with water which He then turns to wine. His first miracle. And I love this. I love how His first miracle was so…simple. Which is so weird to write, but do you know what I mean? He didn’t start off with raising someone from the dead, or healing someone, or calming a storm. He just turned water into wine. That’s so appealing to me for some reason.
One of my friends expressed the opposite opinion though. He said for the longest time he was a little put off that this was Jesus’ first miracle. Like, what was the point of it? Did it really help anyone other than maybe avoiding embarrassment? But that’s kind of the point. This miracle wasn’t beneath Him. Isn’t it beautiful that our God doesn’t just care about the big, life changing things, but He’s also just as concerned about the details of our lives?
The Good Wine
So okay, the miracle seems simple enough (interior laugh because that’s just ridiculous). But here’s the next thing: Jesus takes it a step further. He doesn’t just turn water into wine. He freaking turns 160 gallons of water into really, really good wine. He outdoes Himself!
A huge lesson to take away from this is allowing God to transform what we have. What’s that mean? I’m not totally sure to be honest, but I think it speaks to God’s power of being able to take whatever it is we have to offer, even if it’s just water or just ashes, and create something incredible with it.
When my sister got married this summer, I pulled my dad aside the day before the wedding to kindly suggest we get a few nicer beers, at least for the beginning of the wedding. After the guest’s first Corona, who cares if it’s only Budlight afterwards. But that first impression is worth the extra $100, and my Dad thanked me later. Which is actually what I thought of when I prayed Lectio with this last week (I know, profound). But even two thousand years ago it was the same deal: we like to have the good stuff first, but as the headwaiter said, “but you have kept the good wine until now.”
Only Jesus, right? Only Jesus would think about slyly rolling out the best and choicest wine later in the night. He’s fun, even when Mass is boring. He cares about your happiness, even when He’s asking you to do hard things.
And what’s crazy is I still feel like there’s still a hundred things to learn from this Gospel alone. That’s why I love Lectio Divina (and hey, Visio Divina!), because the Word breathes new life into us. It becomes real. Pope Benedict XVI endorsed this form of prayer when he wrote, "I would like to mention the spread of the ancient practice of Lectio Divina or 'spiritual reading' of Sacred Scripture. It consists in pouring over a biblical text for some time, reading it and rereading it, as it were, 'ruminating' on it as the Fathers say and squeezing from it, so to speak, all its 'juice,' so that it may nourish meditation and contemplation and, like water, succeed in irrigating life itself."