John 2:1-11 – Wedding Feast at Cana
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”Scripture taken from the ESV, (C) Crossway Publications
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
As I was sitting in the pew Sunday morning, I almost instantly realized I chose the wrong reading to reflect on this weekend, especially given the discussion about Theosis our men’s group had. It’s always a fun experience when you realize your plan doesn’t really match God’s plan. The best part of such experiences is re-realizing how awesome God is, how perfect His plans are and to keep listening for His voice. The best advice I think I could ever give is the same advice Mary gives us here, “just do whatever He tells you to.” So, I’m writing a 2nd Sunday reflection, after the fact. New words for new wine!
There’s a lot to unpack in this reading, and in no way am I even going to cover half of what’s really going on behind these words, but I want to share what the Holy Spirit spoke to me as I was listening in the pew.
The first thing that came to me was this idea of old wine and new wine, and how it was connected to the old covenant and the new. Which makes Mary’s declaration even more meaningful, well beyond the situation at hand. We have to assume the groom served his best wine first, as was custom, and simply ran out. So the first wine was good, as was the first covenant God made with His people. Then the people ran out, they weren’t capable of living by the law, and so the celebration would have come to an end. God had a plan from the beginning though. To make a new covenant with His people, redeem them, and multiply their numbers across the world. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them”. So, He came, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the Father’s will, He turned simple water into new wine that was so wonderful it forced the head waiter to question the groom’s judgement, his boss. Think about baptism by water, and the blood of Jesus Christ that we’re purified by. Christ purified the water and turned it into the very thing we partake in the Eucharist when we receive his purifying blood. New wine.
First the vessels are filled with water, then the water is made into new wine and they are filled. First we’re baptized by water, then we receive first communion and truly become partakers of Christ in the wedding feast of the lamb.
“Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”
2 Timothy 4:6
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.”
When Paul and Timothy reference a drink offering, it’s elsewhere translated as “libation”, which is a sacrificial drink poured out over an altar. It was a pagan ceremonial practice that many throughout the Levant would have been familiar with. Typically, a ceremonial cup made of precious metals, like gold, was filled with animal blood or wine and literally poured out over an altar to honor whatever god was being evoked. Recognizing their power, provision and, through the priest, the people’s devotion to that god. I often get the sense it was to reestablish vows.
So, why did Paul and Timothy make a reference to a libation? Think about what scripture teaches us about our body being a temple, our hearts a sanctuary. We are vessels, just like those large water jars. We started out in life full of water, but then by grace, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and the power of the Holy Spirit we’re purified and filled by His blood- new wine. We become a vessel of, and for, Christ. Theosis. We’re an imperfect vessel though, and so we cannot contain the sheer awesomeness of God and it’s inevitable that He overflows within us and into others. As we become comfortable in allowing Him to flow through us, we start to willingly spill over and pour Him out over others. Making of ourselves a sacrificial drink offering, not by our power, but His. Now think about all those there that day in Cana. They drank wine that God made from water. Because of the outpouring of those jars into their individual cups they too became partakers in Christ’s majesty. They were able to keep celebrating the wedding feast because of that outpouring of new wine.
We are the fruit that, when purified, helps supply that new wine. Christ is the vine that bears us into the world and nourishes us by His sacrifice. We are also the vessels Christ chooses to fill with His sacrificial drink. This is the New Evangelization, same as the Old Evangelization. Allowing ourselves to be filled by Him to the point of spilling over, and pouring ourselves out, in love, for the sake of others. Theosis.
Christ’s Blood, shed during His Passion, is the New Wine. We’re made clean by the blood of the Lamb, and become partakers at His wedding feast by drinking of it. The wedding feast at Cana is something of a prefigurement of His sacrificial outpouring for us on the cross, the altar where He was sacrificed for our sins. Christ’s ministry on Earth is bookended by the miracle of new wine and the cross, and His life can easily be seen as a libation. He poured Himself out for us from the beginning, and in fullness at the end. In perfect accordance with the will of the Father, and by the power of The Holy Spirit, He poured Himself out whenever he healed someone, then and now, or when He spoke words of encouragement to those around Him who were suffering, like John The Baptist, and especially when He preached the Good News of the New Covenant to those who’d listen.
God’s Will for us is to open up, cooperate with His purifying presence, through Grace, and share Him with everyone around us. Evangelization.