The Prelate’s Message, January 17
Today’s Gospel reading is from St John 2.1-11. There could not be more glorious passage than this one, which presents best the opening of the Kingdom of God, described by our Lord as a wedding banquet.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was invited to a wedding with His mother and disciples in Cana of Galilee. Following the ceremony, at the banquet reception, there was an embarrassing shortage of the wine. The mother of Jesus voluntarily takes action, and informs Jesus by saying, “They have no more wine.” Jesus replies, “What concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother tells the servants: “Whatever he tells you to do, do it.” Jesus orders them to fill the nearby six stone water jars with water, draw out the contents, and first serve it to the chief steward. The latter after tasting it, says to the groom, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then after the guests have become drunk they serve the inferior wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” The Evangelist concludes this event recording that “Jesus did this, the first of his great signs, in Cana of Galilee and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in Him.”
This passage, as much as it is amazing, seeing how the substance of elements are changed by the order of the Creator, nevertheless as the reading of the first Sunday following the feast of Nativity and Epiphany of our Lord, carries a deeper beauty beyond the miracle itself. It teaches us another superb message of humility in action.
The text presents a beautiful parallel of two good wills. There is an appeal to save the disruption of the joyful event, but the answer somehow is, “it is not our business”. The mother, without yielding to this statement, tells the servants to follow her son’s instructions. The request and its answer seem to be a monologue; nevertheless, they synchronize and eventually connect with each other, producing a wonderful result of “Let there be Joy.”
This passage is indeed very rich with its spiritual content. I wish to highlight a couple of points:
- The request of the mother of Jesus reflects a solid trust toward the Son’s Divinity. Another Evangelist, St. Luke, very clearly has recorded that “His mother treasured all these things in her heart” (Lk 2:51). His mother, silently having followed the course of the events, and realizing that a crisis was at hand because of a minor yet socially grave failure, steps in to save the situation. St. Mary, as an angelic earthling, throughout her terrestrial life, having experienced all agonies, selflessly looks out for our own benefit.
- St. Paul in a very concise but powerful statement tells us that, “Jesus being found in human form, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross” (Phil 2:8). His obedience toward our Heavenly Father is exceptional and unparalleled. As much as in His Divine obedience to the Father’s Will is not fully comprehensible to us on the earth, likewise His obedience toward His “biological” mother is astonishing. The Law-Giver who gave the Fifth Commandment to “honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12) has since the beginning of His ministry faithfully fulfilled the commandment personally. Even though He made His point very clear that His time has not yet arrived, nevertheless His mother’s request was more of a priority to Him, and He initiated the time for His mother’s sake, and to render something for good.
- The shortage of wine during wedding reception would be inauspicious and could reflect negatively upon the newlywed couple. The dawning of a new life full of hope and joy could be turned upside down. It might even be interpreted as lack of respect toward the family, or as stinginess of the groom toward the guests. This episode is relevant for all ages. Jesus Christ is the Divine Unifier of a married couple. It is very true that in all things, the first step is always the most important step, and for a new couple, there are so many parts of a new united life which require advance preparation and constant attention to details. One of the lessons from Cana is that we should always be diligent in our daily and lifelong preparations. Jesus not only saved the reception that day, but He saved the couple great embarrassment and teaches us all this great lesson: He is the one who changes the bitterness into sweetness and the plain water in individual lives into the abundant vintage of everlasting life for the united couple. And as His sainted mother advises all who serve the Lord, “Whatever He says, do it.”
- According to the chief steward’s evaluation, the wine offered to him was of high quality. Whatever Jesus offers to us is always the best. The entire creation is tangible and visible evidence of His excellency. As physical parents, if we do our best for the happiness of our children, then how much more will our Heavenly Father do for us to provide the best of all best for our welfare? (Mt 7:7-12)
- I would like to refer to a concern expressed by some Christian brothers and sisters who regard the usage of wine as a sin. It is enough to say that if the Forgiver of sins has not seen any inconvenience with wine, having hallowed it both in Cana and at the Last Supper, then it is up to us to use wine with the same level of wisdom and reverence. St. Nerses Shnorhali, referring to this issue, emphasizes the importance of moderation. As a matter of fact, even an Armenian folklore song very clearly states, “One glass is good, the second is enough, but you should know that the third is pain.”
With these pragmatic messages let us enjoy our life, always benefitting from the constant intercessions of the Holy Mother of God, who silently is on our side and presents our needs to her Son and to our Lord, to whom is befitting glory. Amen.