You Have Kept The Good Wine Until Now by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you." Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, "Fill the jars with water." So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter." So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from - although the servers who had drawn the water knew -, the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.
St. John the Evangelist nourishes the Christian at a veritable feast today, a nuptial feast. In the famous wedding at Cana where Jesus performs the first of His signs or miracles, John describes the eve3nt with carefully chosen words. He packs into each course a variety of juicy, rich themes that are meant to nourish the soul and please the palate with fresh truth and hope-filled grace.
“They have no wine.” These words of Mary to her Son suggest that the couple, probably a poor one, has run out of wine and will soon be embarrassed before their guests. On another level, John is proclaiming a deeper truth about the human condition. Wine, especially for Jews, symbolized joy. Human beings, suffering from both original sin and personal sin, have lost the first grace that God poured upon us at creation and the resultant joy that comes from living at peace with ourselves and with God. As human beings estranged from God, we have no wine.
“Do whatever he tells you.” Mary knows that she does not have the answer to either quandary, the wine or the lasting joy, but she knows Who does. She points the wedding servers with confidence and faith to her Son. This famous command defines Mary’s existence in time and eternity. She is the Queen Mother who knows quite well that her Son came to redeem the world from sin and sadness and renew the whole with forgiveness and joy. Her desire is to point the whole world to Jesus.
“Fill the jars with water.” Jesus provides the wedding feast with an abundance of choice wine. John makes it clear that the miracle produced about 160 gallons of surprisingly good wine. On a deeper level, our Saving Lord does not come to earth as our Redeemer to offer a bland feast with sparse picking. Rather, Jesus comes to fill His beloved children with joy and life. “I have come that you might have life, life in abundance.” (Jn 10:10) Jesus comes to remove the stain of sin that drags us down, restore us to an unfettered, intimate union with God our Father, heal our broken hearts and restore the joy of life. “You have kept the good wine until now.”
“Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana.” We cannot overlook the fact that Jesus’ first miracle in John’s Gospel took place at a wedding. Jesus’ work at pouring new life and grace into the world had to involve marriage and family life. The family is the pillar of society. Since Jesus came to renew humanity, it would necessarily involve the outpouring of new life into the precious union of man and woman, which is the best, most complete place for the procreation and education for children. It is most fitting that Mary would encourage her Son to perform the first of His signs at a wedding.
The joy that comes from knowing Christ and being created anew dwells in the Christian even in the face of great trials. The saints often bear witness to this deep-rooted joy. St. Maximilian Kolbe, known for giving his life as a substitute for a fellow prisoner at the concentration camp in Auschwitz during World War II, knew a profound joy in the midst of extreme suffering.
After convincing the German soldiers to let him take the place of another man chosen to die as a punishment for the death of a prison guard, he was condemned to die by starvation. He lived much longer than expected and retained a remarkable, positive attitude during this period of torment. He continued to pray with the inmates, hear confessions, sing hymns and maintain a spirit of joy while starving to death. This faith-filled resilience to their torture so disturbed the German soldiers that they changed their plan and killed him with an injection of carbolic acid. St. Maximilian’s faith and the joy that flowed from it were a source of light and hope for many prisoners.
Jesus Christ, through His suffering and death, has restored grace, life and joy to our broken world. Faith in Jesus results in a renewal of the human heart that brings extraordinary strength and joy, even in the face of trials and suffering. Christ’s transformation of water into wine is a great symbol of the new life and joy that God longs to give us. “You have kept the good wine until now.”
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