When you hear the words, “there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee” don’t even think it could be anything like the weddings and receptions we have in this day and age.
In those days wedding were celebrated to honour the joining of families. Jesus must have been related in some way to the bride or the groom. It wouldn’t be a sit down dinner with an open bar. Because most people just had enough to live on, guests were expected to bring food or wine to the feast. A wedding feast was a lot like a pot luck meal. In those days they had the feast first and then the wedding ceremony and then the young couple where escorted by family and friends to where they were to live. Sometimes the celebration could last a week. Most people were poor and hard working so a wedding was an occasion to break the monotony and drudgery of daily life and let off steam.
At some point in the party Mary noticed the wine was running out. Mary tells Jesus and he tells her he’ll take care of it. To run out of wine would be a great embarrassment to both families. The rabbis had a saying ‘without wine there is no joy.’ John tells us there were six large water jars standing there, probably close to the front door. Jewish hospitality required that when guests arrived at a home their feet were washed, to get the dirt and dust off their sandaled feet. This water was usually rain water gathered off roofs during the rainy season. It certainly wasn’t fresh drinking water. That was too precious to be used in such a way.Jesus takes the stagnant water and changes it into choice wine so that the celebration of life and love could go on.
In our second reading Paul writes of the many gifts with which our lives are blessed. These gifts are given to us not for ourselves, they are to be shared, and they are for the good of all. We are all blessed with the gift of our own personality. Maybe we’re blessed with an ability to listen to others, blessed with the patience to hear other’s tale of sorrow. They may not be looking for answers, they just want to know they’ve been heard and understood. Maybe we’ve been blessed with the gift of patience, the gift of being able to take the time to be with people in need of companionship. Maybe we’ve been gifted with ability to let people know we feel their pain or their sorrow. Maybe we have the ability to coax people out of their depression. Maybe we have been blessed to bring a bit of humour into a tense situation. We have all been gifted with something, something we are meant to share.
The ordinary realities of life can be like stagnant water Jesus worked with. We all face the drab realities of everyday living. And yet we could, using the gifts with which we have been blessed and by what we do or say turn someone’s tasteless water into the choice wine of knowing they are important, they are cared for. A kind word or gesture can work wonders. We may never see that person again but what we said or did made a difference in their lives.
A number of years ago Bishop D’Angelis was here celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation. There was a young girl who was really excited by the whole thing. Her sponsor had given her a camera as a Confirmation gift. At the reception afterwards she was running around taking pictures of her classmates. Her special picture was the one someone took of her and the Bishop. As the evening was winding down the girl discovered there was no film in the camera. Her celebration was ruined. I was in the office with the Bishop who had just packed his robes, mitre and staff. A teacher came in and told us what happened and wondered if the bishop had the time to come out and have his picture taken with her. He was happy to do this. He started to unpack his vestments. I told him that wasn’t necessary but he said he wanted to be dressed as he was for their first photo. He said,”Paul it’s such a small thing to do.” He went to the hall and they had their picture taken together. His gracious gesture turned that young girl’s water of disappointment into the choice wine of her knowing she was important.
Blessed with the gifts of our own personalities, blessed with an ability to listen, blessed with a willingness to be involved and reach out to others in need, may we appreciate our ability to be with troubled people supporting them not with words but by our presence and care. It is then that each of us can make a difference in the ordinary realities of the lives of family and friend, realities that so often can seem like stagnant waters. Being with others through our presence, care, encouragement and compassion we can change those situations into choice, refreshing, life giving wine just by a word of encouragement, or the simple gesture of a hug or a smile
As we remember and celebrate this first of the signs given by Jesus in Cana of Galilee may we be blessed to realize that we can by what we say and what we do bring the refreshing, life giving wine of God’s care and love into someone’s life.