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Loving you is a feast

At first glance, this passage seems a simple story of a miracle. In a village in Galilee, a wedding feast is celebrated. There are the guests who gathered to spend a few happy days, but here’s a disappointment: there is no wine and there is not even water because—according to the story—the jars are empty (they will be filled only by order of Jesus). 
 
A situation of abandonment, of general sadness. Beyond this apparent simplicity of the story are deep theological intent. 
 
The wedding feast at Cana is a symbol of this relationship of God with his people. Lack of  wine represents the sad condition of the people of Israel disappointed and dissatisfied, which replaced the momentum of love for the Lord with the fulfillment of legal provisions. 
 
This way of relating with God never gave joy, yet it is an always present temptation. People rely willingly on religious practice, the strict observance of duties, the repetition of rituals of which they do not even know the meaning.
 
Why is  she (Israel) (the noun Israel is feminine and is considered as the bride of Yahweh)  in this condition? The religion taught by the rabbis is that of “merits.” They taught that, whoever acquires merits and is faithful to the law is loved by God. To help people to observe the law, they detailed and multiplied so many little rules, impossible to observe.
 
Since transgressions are inevitable, and one always feels unclean and guilty, the purification rites were devised. Here is the symbolic significance of the six empty stone jars: they represent the religion of purification, that set of practices and rituals unable to communicate serenity, joy, and peace. Not from this water, but from what Jesus orders to draw—his water—that will result in the best wine. 
 
Jesus’ mother can be Mary, yes, but she can also indicate the spiritual community in which Jesus was born, and from which he was educated. In today’s passage, she certainly represents the pious people of Israel, those who first realise that the religious situation they live in is unsustainable. What must they do then? Turn to Jesus. They understand that the living water comes only from him. Whoever drinks it, is transformed into wine, made happy. 
 
John places this “sign” at the beginning of his Gospel because it is a synthesis of all that Jesus will do later. He is the one who will celebrate the wedding feast with the community. The feast has begun but will culminate when “his hour will come,” (Matthew 24:36) when, on Calvary, he will manifest all his love by giving his life for the bride when from his pierced side will flow “blood and water” (John 19:34). In Cana, he makes only a sign of what we will do. In the hour when he will “pass from this world to the Father” (John 13:1) he will actually give the water “welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
 
 
 
● Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications
bibleclaret.org
Translated by Father John Ledesma SDB
Abridged by Father Thomas Thennedy CMF