2nd Sunday Year C

See Commentary on John 2:1-11 in John 2:1-12

Homily 1 - 2007

In the Gospel passage we have just read, John commented: This was the first of the signs that Jesus did. He let his glory be seen. The story is a sign, revealing his glory. So let’s look closely. Let’s be particularly observant and alert to detail.

What is glory? It is what others can see of the mystery of another. As a sunset gives us a glimpse of the mysterious beauty of God, this story of Cana gives us a glimpse of the mystery of Jesus. But what does it show us of the mystery of Jesus?

The one who helps us see further into the mystery is Mary, whom John introduces us to for the first (of two) times in his Gospel, and he calls her mother of Jesus. He emphasises her role as mother – as life bearer.

The story is about a wedding – it’s about a man and a woman in partnership. It’s about two potential parents, two life-givers. So the mother theme occurs a second time.

The story is also about water into wine – It’s about new creation. It’s about abundant new creation. And it’s about celebration. It’s a celebration of abundant new life. So the life theme occurs a second time

But it’s still only sign - It’s not the real thing.

Let’s look further. Jesus calls Mary Woman: Woman, why turn to me? That sounds a bit strange. It puts us on the back-foot. It even seems abrupt, unkind. But does the word woman sound perhaps familiar? Does it ring a distant bell?

Remember the Adam and Eve story. After God shaped Eve from the side of Adam, Adam said: This one this time is bone from my bone, flesh from my flesh. This one shall be called woman for from man she has been taken.

She shall be called woman –

And later, after the original sin of the man and the woman, the book of Genesis says: Adam called the woman Eve because she is the mother of all the living. So the woman Eve is shown as the partner of the man Adam in the fall of humanity; but she is also, with her partner Adam, the mother of all the living.

The plot thickens! Could it be that Mary, in partnership with Jesus, turns around the original fall and mothers a whole new humanity, a whole new creation? The story might be talking about a whole other new life, abundant, redeemed life, and genuine celebration.

Let’s keep looking. Jesus says to Mary at Cana: Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not yet come.

Why turn to me! – it’s a terrible translation of a difficult phrase. It sort of means: What’s this between us? It’s sort of denying a relationship. But it’s only temporary. My hour has not come yet. Effectively Jesus is saying: “When my hour does come, then we shall be in partnership.”

Cana is only the sign. Of itself, it’s empty.

When is, what is, Jesus’ hour? In John’s Gospel, his hour is the moment of his death. That is the hour when Mary appears in the gospel a second time. At Cana, Jesus called Mary Woman, and said that they were not yet in partnership. On the cross, with Mary and the beloved disciple at his feet, he would address her as woman again, and say: Woman, this is your son.

"You are the mother of the beloved disciple; you are the mother of all beloved disciples. Mary, you are the new Eve, you are truly the mother of all the living. Now that my hour has come, we are in partnership".

Jesus the new Adam; Mary the new Eve: together, in their different ways, life-givers to a redeemed humanity, life-givers to a new creation, to abundant life, to genuine celebration.

Cana was just a sign, giving a glimpse into the mysterious creativity, abundance and joy of God. Calvary would bring it about. Mary wasn’t on the cross with Jesus. But her heart, mind and will were aligned perfectly with his in trusting abandonment to the God of life and in his act of redeeming love.

And we are the ones who celebrate.

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.

 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.

Homily 4 - 2019

There is a signpost on the Pyrenees Highway between Ararat and Avoca that points to a place called “Nowhere Creek”. There is another one on the same highway pointing to “Paradise”. And Google Maps offer to pinpoint both destinations! Road-signs are helpful, but they are not the destination. There is a sign outside the church here saying “St Mary’s Church”, but the sign is not the church.

St John told us that the goings-on recounted in today’s Gospel passage were a sign; so it was not the miracle that mattered, important as it was for the wedding-guests, but the reality it was pointing to. The sign was water becoming wine – but it was more. It was a whole village being able really to enjoy themselves – but it was more than that. It was a whole village being able to share and to encourage the joy of two young people who had discovered each other, who loved each other, and who were pledging to love for life – for better and for worse. All that was the sign. And the reality it pointed to, what Jesus was to make possible, was a whole world able to rejoice, to rejoice in each other and to recognize that the secret to it all was love. That, simply, is the world redeemed, saved from itself, set free from its ancient, originating sin.

Let us keep looking – more closely. Jesus provided the wine. Jesus, however, could not rejoice on behalf of other people. Everyone had to do that for themselves – but they could not do it alone, by themselves. It was the experience of the “rejoicing together” that was the essence of the joy. When we can all rejoice together, we shall know that we are redeemed. And Jesus will be leading the dance.

As Jesus’ public life unfolded, his every action showed forth that joyful love – but people wouldn’t see. He explained it and teased it out at length – but they would not listen. Their hearts were closed, and they would not convert and be healed. They killed him eventually. But they could not suppress Jesus’ joyful love. He still led the dance from the cross with his last ounce of human energy. Even there he was deeply compassionate; he kept on forgiving; he trusted his God and God’s way of love; and with his last breath, he handed over his Spirit to the sinful world that he still loved.

At Cana, Jesus worked a sign, a miraculous sign, of human redemption. He could do that miracle because he was also divine. Mary, the Woman, the New Eve, had no share in Jesus’ miraculous power. But when Jesus’ hour came, the time for the real thing, for the climax of the cooperative work of Jesus and the whole human race in the work of human redemption, it was the vulnerable, but perfectly human Jesus who, through his suffering and death, was at work there. Mary, who had nothing to do with his divinity, had everything to do with his humanity. Without her, no human Jesus, no dying Jesus, no human redemption. Woman, mother of the new humanity, behold your son!

The work still carries on. The human race still needs to agree to dance with Jesus – to expand to the scale of the world the love and the joy, the cooperation of everyone with everyone, signified that day in Cana, that little non-descript village of Galilee.

His disciples believed in him – they’d give it a go. And ourselves? To experience redemption, to know happiness, we don’t need everyone to tango with us – though it would be more wonderful if they did [and will be complete only when they do]. We already have enough for happiness – we have the power to love. We need to keep on practising, to find our heart and set it free – to see everything as the gift it is, and school ourselves to be grateful, always grateful.


Homily 5 - 2022 

Today’s First Reading from Isaiah was a wonderfully extravagant reading. God was addressing the nation as one corporate whole. Speaking metaphorically, God spoke of divine love as like a powerful young love between two recently married spouses.“Like a young man marrying a virgin, so will the one who built you wed you, and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will your God rejoice in you.” Earlier he had said, “The Lord takes delight in you …”. It is an image of divine love that most of us are not too familiar with, but the image can help us to sit up and take notice, to listen personally, and to respond appropriately.

Anyhow, in today’s Reading from John’s Gospel, we have the story of Jesus at a wedding feast, and taking charge of the drinks. And he provided enough wine to give headaches to everyone in the small town.

John used the story theologically, as he so often did, to make the point that Jesus was about to usher in the redemption that God had in mind when he inspired Isaiah to prophesy the way he did.

There was another point that he also wanted to make. You will have noticed the dialogue between Jesus and his mother. Firstly, he addressed her as “Woman”. Then he said, “Why turn to me?” That translation does not help. What he was really saying was more like, “This is my business, not yours” — and his reason was “My hour has not come yet”. [Though, in fact, he did do what she suggested.]

We need to go to the end of Jesus’ life to make sense of all this. On the night of his last supper, less than twenty-four hours before he would be crucified, John commented, “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father … Now he showed how perfect his love was”. That he could do this was very much Mary’s business.

Just before he died on the cross, Jesus spoke to Mary who stood nearby with the beloved disciple. He said, “Woman, this is your son”, and to the disciple he said, “This is your mother”.

The title, “Woman”, recalled the story of God’s creating the first two human persons. The Book of Genesis refers to Eve as “Woman”. It later declared, “The man named his wife ‘Eve’ because she was the mother of all those who live.”

What was Mary’s connection to the dying Jesus? It was precisely because he was human that he was able to die. It was Mary who provided Jesus with his humanity, who conceived Jesus, nourished him in her womb for nine months, and then gave birth to him. It was she who later taught him to love. She made his redeeming us possible.She had everything to do with him when “his hour” to die for love had come.

At Cana, Mary seems to have asked Jesus for a miracle. That Jesus could work miracles had nothing to do with her. Jesus could work miracles because he was the Christ, the Son of God. And at Cana, Jesus’ hour, the hour of his definitive conquering of the power of sin through his human death and thereby of his gaining life for every human person, had not yet come.

Once Jesus had died, Mary became the new Eve, “the mother of all those who live” — symbolised in the Beloved Disciple.