2nd Sunday Year C - Homily 2

Homily 2 - 2013

According to the Gospel of John, this was the first of Jesus' signs.  Signs are helpful.  Signposts are helpful.  Without them, I would have had trouble getting here this morning.  But I didn't come to see the post.  I came to see you.  Today's Gospel story is a sign.  It's helpful.  Perhaps it is interesting in its own right.  But John saw a sign as pointing to something else – which to him was immeasurably more important.

Let's look at the sign first.  It was a wedding celebration in a village called Cana.  Wedding celebrations are joyful occasions – not just for the food, the drink and the dancing, but for the young couple getting married and for their families and friends who share their joy.  They celebrate relationship, a primary relationship, already begun, but destined to blossom.

For all its joy, the fulfillment of a young couple on their wedding day is nothing in comparison to what it can become.  But, as many of you know, growth in love is a two-edged sword.  It has its price: a gradual death to instinctive selfishness and self-will, repeated day after day, as love for each other and love for children take shape in the real world of real personalities.  Love has its price, but it also has its reward.  Death to all self-centredness is the way to true freedom, life to the full, and indefinable peace and joy.

So that was part of the sign.  But the more arresting part of the sign was what Jesus did to the water in the jars.  He turned it into wine – exquisite wine and unlimited quantity.

To what were they pointing, this love, relationship, unlimited, exquisite wine and the joy that filled the hearts of all present?

Jesus revealed what he effectively was on about.  Salvation is about relationship, about love – love always at a price.  Love that brings with it joy, peace and fulfillment, but love encountering and replacing the world's self-interest, national interest, competitiveness, rivalry and ever-present hostility.  Against such a background, love so often takes the necessary shape of forgiveness – unconditional, non-selective, constant forgiveness.

Salvation is really nothing more than that, nothing less - though such love takes us well beyond our unaided, unredeemed human potential, and requires that we be empowered by the creative love of God, indeed, that the process of human divinisation be already begun in us.

I think that that is precisely what is hinted at in the cryptic conversation between Jesus and Mary as presented in the story.  Jesus' comment awkwardly translated in today's Lectionary as Woman, why turn to me? carries the more generic meaning of "We are not working in partnership" – but it is to be heard in relation to what follows: My hour has not yet come, and hinting that then they will be working in partnership.

Through what he would do with the water, Jesus was about to reveal his glory – his mysterious reality, eventually to be perfected through his resurrection and the divinisation of his humanity.  For that to happen, Jesus would be working in partnership uniquely with his Father.  Mary would have no involvement in that.

However, the radically transforming resurrection of Jesus was preceded by his redeeming death on the cross.  Jesus could suffer and die, [and thereby redeem us and make eternal life possible for us], only because he was human.  And he was human precisely because he was conceived in the human womb of Mary his mother.  In his dying – which Jesus referred to as his hour – Jesus and Mary would be very much in partnership.

As Jesus entrusted Mary and the Beloved Disciple to each other at his crucifixion, Jesus would again address Mary as Woman.  As so often in John's Gospel, the term is to be understood theologically.  In the original creation story, Woman was the title applied to Eve, the mother of all the living.  Now, as the world is recreated and redeemed by the death of Jesus, son of Mary, Mary and Jesus would be in partnership – not unlike how Adam and Eve were in partnership in parenting human life and in committing the "original sin" from which the human, mortal Jesus, son of Mary, would redeem us.

This was the first of the signs given by Jesus… He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him.  Wine in abundance, celebrating love.