The generous and bountiful bridegroom
January 11th, 2016
By Sister Maria Catherine, OP
In the second book of Kings, Namaan is an Aramaean general who wants Elijah to cure him from leprosy. When Elijah promises that if he bathes in the Jordan seven times he will be cured, Namaan scoffs at the suggestion. It seems too simple, too provincial. “Are not the rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel?” he thinks to himself. But his servants prevail upon him, “If the prophet had commanded you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?” (2 Kings 5:12-13)
Today’s Gospel brings this story from the Old Testament to mind. John tells us that the wedding at Cana is Christ’s first miracle. John had met Jesus when he was with Andrew. Presumably they spent a whole afternoon and evening with him, but Jesus must not have worked any miracles during that first visit. Yet, when he turns the water into wine at the wedding there are no fireworks, no peals of thunder, or earthquakes. Nor does Jesus fling himself on the ground in supplication to the Father. Making wine for the feast turns out to be as simple as filling jars. Jesus’ miracle is simple rather than complicated. It is also rather hidden. No one runs through the wedding banquet proclaiming the miracle that has taken place. The only people who really know besides Jesus are the servers who filled the six stone jars, and the disciples. Upon discovering the new wine, the headwaiter does not so much question the origin of the wine, as why one would save the “good wine” until later in the feast. Jesus works this one quietly.
Miracles are performed to foster faith. They are not meant to be empty shows of power but are saturated with meaning. John indicates that the reason for the miracle was Christ’s gradual manifestation to his people, especially his disciples, who begin to believe in him from this point forward. This episode proclaims rather loudly that faith will be the point of departure for the disciples from now on, even when they lack trust.
Old Testament literature characterizes the relationship of the Israelites with God, as a bridegroom with his bride. Whether American, Jewish or Middle Eastern, weddings are all about the bride. Scholars have remarked on the absence of the bride in this passage. Nevertheless, Christ situates his first miracle in the context of his being the bridegroom. The miracle of turning water into wine not only miraculously supplies a deficit in the wedding planner, but it shows Christ’s full-fledged credentials to take care of his bride, the church. It is the Lord who provides the wine, just as the Lord supplied the ram for Abraham. The stone jars are not meant for storing wine; they are meant for ceremonial cleansing. This poignant detail hints that the bridegroom will go beyond providing the libations at a wedding feast. He will provide from his own veins the precious blood that cleanses all the world’s wrongdoing. He provides the wine; he provides the lamb on the cross. He provides. He is the generous and bountiful bridegroom who looks after his bride.
If his first miracle was so subtle, how quietly must the miracles be in our own lives. They are easy to overlook. Since our God is so all powerful and deigned to make himself so small and unnoticeable, don’t be afraid to run to him to provide for you, and to gratefully acknowledge him when he does.
Dominican Sister Maria is a perpetually professed member of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and is pursuing her master’s in theology at Ave Maria University in Florida.
From January 14, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.