On this Second Sunday of Epiphany, we continue our reading about the manifestation or revelation of Jesus Christ to the people, cultures and the nations of the world.
One may ask why Jesus Christ should be revealed to us? It is because Christ is the Son of God who has revealed God’s love for us by offering to be the sacrificial lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. According to the Gospel of John, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart (bosom), who has made him known” (1:18).
Epiphany is also about the compelling personal transformation as become aware and accept the new identity that uplifts us beyond our normal life to the new lifecycle of love, hope and faith.
We have read from Matthew (2:1-11) and Luke (2:1-11) about the wise men from the east, the shepherd at the field, and the angels from heaven, whose experiences have demonstrated God’s plan to draw us to his perfect light, break down the walls of cultural barriers, and build up a new community of believers with love through Christ whose presence has transformed the world.
The groups (the wise men, the shepherds, the angels, and John the Baptist) whom we have read about during Christmastide and whom we continue to read about during the epiphany season are the marginalized who have testified about Jesus and whose experiences have revealed the plan of God. As we experience isolation from and hurt in the society, we have hope that God is in control of his creation and has not forsaken us nor given us up to the forces of the world, such as the pandemic that has again confined us to our homes, closed down churches and separated us from each other, including those whom we dearly love. Hang in for such a great hope in God.
Our gospel reading today describes the first sign in the Gospel of John that reveals that Jesus is on the stage, testifying about his own divinity through the sings or miracles for the glory of God.
What is going on? The first scene is familiar to most of us. It is a wedding (description).
Jesus Christ and his disciples and mother have attended the wedding in Cana of Galilee. In attendance are the servants whose responsibility is to satisfy the expectations of the guests, making sure the guests leave with great memories. There are the unnamed bride and the bridegroom whose roles are insignificant in this story because we only read about their passive roles (but we know they are there because there can be no wedding without the bride and the groom). The bride and groom are only there to enjoy themselves, to have fun. Isn’t what the weddings are about? To have fun and great memories of the event?
Now things do not look good because the wine has run out. The planners and the servants are ashamed and embarrassed. The master of ceremony does not even know about the problem.
What do the servants do? Nothing! Who do the servants turn to? Nobody! The servants are probably complaining among themselves and in great confusion as they do not know what to do. They are frustrated and embarrassed, probably for inviting more guests and preparing less wine. For not keeping up with the expectations of the guests and satisfying them. Isn’t the wedding all about fun in our modern cultures? To be merry and have fun… and live happily thereafter.
Luckily, a certain guest, identified as Mary, shows up to give hope and begins to order the servants around to do whatever her little boy Jesus says. The little boy Jesus follows his mother’s craziness and orders the servants to fill up the jars with water, while the mother keeps silencing the servants “to just do it” even without informing their supervisor, the master of the banquet.
This second scene is now unfamiliar to most of us. How dare the guests whom we do not even know they have food safety certificate can take over the wedding planning on wine making?
I am not being dramatic. The point is we have certain expectations when we attend the wedding. Joy and happiness, that is, having fun, enjoying ourselves and forgetting about the challenges of the chaotic world, top list of such expectations. Joy and happiness come in different ways, for example, through meeting and chatting with friends and relatives whom one has not seen for a long time, or through sharing meals and drinking.
What happens when such expectations are not met? We feel frustrated and turn to the people who are responsible for the event to either shame them, or request them to solve the problem.
We see a different picture of the situation in the gospel. Mary is the first witness of the problem, and therefore, the first person to speak in search of solution. Look at the conversation.
Mary: (to Jesus) They have no more wine. Vs 3.
Jesus: (to Mary) Woman, why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come. Vs 4.
Mary: (to the servants) Do whatever he (Jesus) tells you. Vs. 5.
Jesus: (to the servants) Fill the jars with water. vs 7.
Jesus: (to the servants) Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet. vs 8.
Master of the banquet: (to groom) Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now. vs 10.
Author of John: What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. Vs 11.
Mary, what a persistent faithful woman! Can’t she see the son has declined her request to intervene? Not really. Jesus has not refused to act. He knows his mission to reveal the glory of God to the world has come and only wants Mary to understand such a mission cannot be manipulated through human relations, such as motherhood, or else the glory is in vain.
Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, having keenly observed the frustration of the servants, takes upon herself to act because she knows the ability and identity of her son. Mary has witnessed a lot about Jesus to reach the conclusion that Jesus is the only person to solve the problem before hand and save the servants and the bride and groom from social stigma and shame. She is right.
Virgin Mary, the favoured one of the Lord who can see into the human situation with the heart of the keen learner, has a quick solution: to run to her son and make the problem known to him.
Virgin Mary is revealing Jesus to the audience who have no knowledge of his divine identity. Mary knows about the beginning of a great period of time in the ministry of Jesus. She is right.
John hints at the idea that Jesus showed His glory on the third day, and that His disciples believed in Him when they saw His glory among the crowd.
The first day may be the incident at Bethany across the Jordan that begins with now, where John testified about Jesus: “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal” (John 1:19-28).
The next day: John made declaration about the identity of Jesus as the Lamb of God and confirm his baptism is the revelation of Jesus to Israel (John 1:29-34).
The next day: John made the same declaration about the Lamb of God, and the first response comes from the first disciples, Andrew and his brother Simon Peter, who then follow Jesus because of their witness to the testimony by their teacher John the Baptist (John 1:35-42).
The next day (notice the change of location from Bethany to Galilee and the main character from John to Jesus and the sequence of calls), Jesus calls Philip to follow him and then Philip brings Nathaniel to Jesus as the fourth disciple who has believed in Jesus (John 1:43-51).
“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee” (2:1) sounds like the author’s math is wrong. First, we must understand “on the third day” serves to remind the readers about the event occurring as Jesus begins his ministry and how the disciples believe him. It seems appropriate to begin counting after the first response from the disciples to follow Jesus. That is, the call of Andrew and Peter is the first day and the call of Philip and Nathaniel is the second day. Days here refer to periods of time of the event and disciples’ belief in Jesus.
Signs reveal the glory of God. Those who witness signs believe in Jesus, at least from the perspective of the Gospel of John, whose purpose of writing is summarized as follows: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).
Seven signs in the Gospel of John:
- John 2:1-11 – Jesus turns water into wine in Cana of Galilee – our reading today.
- John 4:46-54 – Jesus heals the royal official’s son in Capernaum.
- John 5:1-15 – Jesus heals the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem.
- John 6:1-14 – Jesus feeds the five thousand (5,000) Sea of Tiberias in Galilee.
- John 6:15-21 – Jesus walks on water and guides disciples to safety from the rough sea.
- John 9:1-12 – Jesus heals the man born blind.
- John 11:1-44 – Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.
The commonest factor in these signs is the fact that they have happened at the critical time of great needs, when we need God’s divine intervention to rescue us from the challenges that marginalize us from our own community. Jesus Christ helps us overcome such challenges.
Marriage is all about the manifestation of the glory of God. When the couple hold their hands, walk to the altar, and vow to live together is both sorrowful and happy times, they bind themselves to the revelation of love that God has shown us in Christ. Marriage is divine dramatization with the purpose to meet the expectations of God for humanity in creation.
The true happiness and joy are sharing the bread and wine on the communion table, participating in the breaking of Christ’s Body and sharing his Blood for the preservation of our bodies and souls into eternal life. The Holy Communion is our true wedding because we are joined to God through sharing and thanksgiving. John writes, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (1:14).
We have seen God’s glory in Cana, and we continue to see it in our daily lives, when we experience that single event that calls us to Christ and we accept him.
Miracles are still prevalent among us today. We simply fail to glorify God by sharing them.
As witness his ministry and glory of God, we believe and follow Jesus to guide our life. Christ is born to reveal God’s love for the world. He is the manifestation of God in humanity. He is the light that guides our feet. Invite him to your life, believe in him, and serve him. Shall you?