I’m open about the fact that I occasionally like to have a glass of red wine after dinner, and a smudge of Bailey’s Irish Cream on my coffee. In fact, Santa delivered two giant bottles of Baileys during the Christmas, which should last me a year or so. Having made that disclaimer, I’m going to reflect on the Cana event, where Jesus miraculously changed water into wine. It wasn’t a few liters that he produced for the final toast, rather a prodigious amount—150 gallons. That amount could keep St. John’s supplied for a few years. And it wasn’t cheap wine or grape juice, rather wine of the best quality. It’s ironic that while fundamentalists advocate a literal interpretation of the Bible, on this miracle, they choose a mental restriction. Jesus didn’t turn water into grape juice, at least by this account.
The massive supply of wine in today’s miracle makes you wonder why such abundance. Did Jesus not know that the evil one uses alcohol to enslave people so he could spread misery in their lives? However, the first and second readings answer that question by illustrating Israel’s espousal in the Wedding Feast of Heaven, and the abundance of spiritual gifts, produced in the people of the new covenant—highlighting the spiritual meaning of the miracle. After Pentecost, observers of the miracle accused the apostles who had emerged from hiding, saying: “They have been drinking too much wine” (Acts 2:13). Peter countered that “these men are not drunk since it is only the third hour of the day” (Acts 2:15). He spoke about the spirit that the Lord promised through the prophets that he would pour out on His people, which would be like new wine. The relationship between the Cana event and the Pentecost have been noted and studied: (1) The mother of Jesus was a central figure in both events, (2) Each arose out of a needy situation, and (3) The gifts were abundant, and meant for others.
The miracle at Cana is a Gospel passage many would-be couples choose for their wedding. Many crucial points can be drawn from the miracle. The hosts of the event, the bride and groom, sent out invitations to many, including Jesus, His apostles, and His mother. It does matter who we invite to our homes, our lives, or families, and our society. Because we often face inevitable embarrassing situations where our insufficiencies and limitations reveal themselves, we need people around us who can fill up those needs that we cannot fulfil for ourselves all the time. We cannot give ourselves love, life, happiness. Married people have needs they cannot fulfil for themselves. Hence, it won’t hurt to invite God, the author of all good things into our lives and our homes.
More than a decade ago, Dr. Frank Luntz, a secular Jewish statistician, wrote a book titled, “What Americans Really Want...Really,” comparing and contrasting quality of life among people who practice their faith and those who don’t or don’t have any. After an extensive research, results reveal that, “in general, people who have God in their lives are happier, healthier and more contented compared to nonbelievers and nonpractitioners. They are more likely to be happily married and more likely to spend time with their children. They are more likely to do volunteer work and less likely to engage in anti-social activities. They are better adjusted and closer to family and friends.” Dr. Luntz concludes: “Every type of positive pathology that we believe is good for the human condition has a direct correlation with sincere religious activities.”
We can deduce from the miracle at Cana that we need, not only God in our family but also members of the courts of heaven. Those who say Jesus is enough for them are partially right; but they also need Peter to open the gate, Elizabeth, Anna, Joseph, and especially Mary for the times when Jesus may need to be persuaded to act, as He was at the wedding in Cana. We need the Church too as a community of saints, where we share life and love, with Jesus as Founder, Head and Animator. And as a promise, God’s wine will be abundant.
Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo