This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee. He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11)
Throughout this year of mercy, we will be hearing mainly from St Luke’s Gospel, but today, on the first “Green” Sunday, it is the Gospel of John which speaks to us. We shouldn’t be surprised - it is the first miracle of Jesus, and in many ways the beginning of his ministry. “He let his glory be seen” : it is not just the beginning of his ministry of teaching, but also the beginning of his revealing as the Word made flesh.
And like most of John’s Gospel this is a story which is deeply symbolic and laden with meaning.
Yet it is also a very human story, and a very human situation. It is a miracle, yes, but one which is almost secret, known to few, without drama or spectacle.
Jesus is present, with friends and family, at a community celebration. Yet it is one in which something goes badly wrong - as we know things sometimes do. The conversation between the son and mother reveals a little tension, perhaps. She asks him to do something, and expects him to … Yet he protests. It is not unlike the story Jesus tell much later of the two sons: one promises to do what he is asked, yet neglects to, and the other refuses to do what he is told, yet thinks better of it, and later he does. And Jesus, like the second son in the story, complains, yet nevertheless does as his Mother bids. It seems, perhaps, that the Mother knows the Son better than he does himself. At heart, putting the quiet miracle aside for a moment, this is a tale familiar to any family. The young man Jesus appears to say “Oh Mum! … Why do I have to do everything?” There are no slamming doors … but we get the idea.
Yet there is a difference. Because a miracle, however quiet, however secret, however hidden, is performed. And to those who know this, his glory is revealed, and future generations will come to know this tale as one of the most familiar in Scripture.
And the tale lends itself to much spiritual interpretation.
It is the revelation of the divinity of the man Jesus, of the incarnation of the Word made flesh.
It provides an introduction to the sacraments - baptism, in which water becomes the gateway to salvation, replacing the ceremonies of the Jewish law; the mass, in which the wine becomes the precious blood of Christ; and of course marriage, in which man and woman become one flesh. It is an image of transformation, in which the ordinary becomes extraordinary - which can have so many echoes with our daily lives.
In laying before us a wedding feast, it symbolises also the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, the glory of Heaven.
And it is also a course an indication of the role of Our Lady, bringing our prayers before the feet of her son, she who knows him so well, loves him so much and places such faith in his mercy.
Yet for all this, perhaps the most striking feature of the story is not the fact that it reveals a typical depiction of a human, a family situation, nor that it is a miracle, nor that it lends itself to so many symbolic interpretations, but that it is all of these. Christ, the Son of God, the Word made flesh, shares the joys of a human family, parties with the people… As we travel through this Year of Mercy and hear mostly the words of St Luke’s Gospel we will hear of him healing the sick, caring for the poor, teaching the needy, feeding the hungry, sharing our sorrows, embracing their suffering - and it all begins with this great moment of Joy, and of Hope. A celebration - in which heaven and earth are united and embrace. A moment of mercy. An outpouring of love.