2nd Sunday Year C - Homily 3

 Homily 3 - 2016

We are familiar with Slim Dusty’s lament: There’s nothing so lonesome, morbid or drear than to stand at the bar of a pub with no beer. Perhaps the same could be said of a wedding celebration in any village in Palestine at the time when Jesus was alive if it ever ran out of wine. In the event recounted in today’s Gospel, Jesus stepped into the breach and averted the disaster. 

St John said that it was the first of the signs that Jesus worked. So, for John, this was a pretty significant event. In fact, John went on to say that by it Jesus revealed his glory and led his disciples to believe in him. So what in fact did it point to? [Whenever we approach John’s Gospel, it is important to remember that John is not all that interested in history as in telling a story in such a way as to give his readers a theological teaching about the deeper mystery of Jesus and his message. What might he be teaching here?]

Some Hebrew prophets had spoken about the coming reign of God in terms of a marriage relationship – a beautifully intimate relationship between God and Israel. The Cana event pretty certainly pointed to that. In fact, the next chapter of the Gospel would have John the Baptist referring to Jesus as a bridegroom, and himself as a guest at the marriage.  

How does that fit in with your sense of God? or of Jesus particularly, who is the revelation of the mystery of God, God “in the flesh”? Can you cope with a God, or with Jesus, who is that close? A lot of people can’t. It does not seem proper enough, formal enough, serious enough for God. I think the Pharisees’ problem with Jesus lay precisely there. They emphasised that God is holy, separate, law-maker and judge– who requires our adoration. Jesus emphasised the mercy of God, who offers us intimacy, passionate intimacy, and who wants us to take him at his word. Jesus could hold both holiness and mercy together in his sense of God – but for him mercy summed up better God’s essence.

There is more. To capture the intent of God the prophets had spoken not only of marriage but also of a wedding feast. Jesus went one better than just any wedding feast. However the wedding at Cana may have started off, after the intervention of Jesus it would have become a boisterous, jubilant, communal celebration for everyone involved. The God who loves each one intimately loves everyone with the same exuberant enthusiasm. We encounter God in the midst of people, at work not so much in holy places as in life, and not just in pleasant experiences but in every experience. Jesus could hold together both deeply personal intimacy and indiscriminate love for everyone at the same time. And he offers us the possibility to do the same.

The pub with no beer may perhaps speak to us more eloquently than any event at Cana in Galilee. In little country towns, the pub can be at times a real centre of community life, a place to gather in times of celebration or of tragedy. Genuine holiness is not a matter of removal beyond the human but of entry into the truly human. I wonder if Jesus did in a pub with no beer what he did in Cana, might it point to the same reality. Jesus is met, and is at work, in our life as it is. We do not need to ask him to intervene. He is there already and always, not pulling strings but equipping us to face whatever reality brings, enabling us to grow and to become more human by choosing to love, everyone, as he does, somehow. Our task is to discern his presence, to trust his way, and to surrender to his empowering love. It does not come easily. But it is worth the effort.