A reflection on John 2:1-11 by Deacon Keith G. Kondrich
During my five-and-a-half years of study and formation for the permanent diaconate, my dad would occasionally ask me this question. . .
“Did you have THE class yet?”
I would say, “What class?” and he would respond, “You know, THE class!” And again, I would reply, “What class? What are you talking about?”
My dad would end the conversation by saying, “Well, you must not have had THE class yet but you’ll know. . .you’ll know when you have it!”
His little riddle went on for a couple of years; every now and then he would ask me how deacon classes were going and then he would always pose the question: “Did you have THE class yet?”
After a while I just couldn’t take it anymore! So the next time he asked, “Did you have THE class yet?”. . .I lost it. . .I broke down and said “WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!? YOU’RE DRIVING ME NUTS! WHAT CLASS!?”
My dad grinned mischievously and said. . . “You know, the class where they teach you how to turn water into wine!”
I actually think that my dad was a little disappointed when I told him that they really don’t teach you how to change water into wine at the seminary.
The description of Jesus’s first miracle, as recounted in the Gospel of John 2:1-11, is familiar to most Christians. Jesus, his mother, and his disciples are attending a wedding banquet in the town of Cana. At some point, during the celebration, the wine runs out and, at the request of his mother, Jesus miraculously turns water into fine wine, thereby saving the bridal party from embarrassment. John, the Evangelist, ends his account by stating that “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.”
Often we interpret the miracle at Cana as a gesture of kindness, on the part of Jesus, to help the wedding party avoid humiliation. But it was more than that! Sometimes we interpret the miracle at Cana as a reminder of the special relationship between Mary and Jesus. But it was more than that!
When Jesus miraculously turns water into wine, He is giving everyone there. . .the wedding party, the guests, the disciples, and even his own mother a sign. . .a sign that reveals His very purpose! Jesus is announcing His mission! He hasn’t come to simply transform water into wine. . . .He has come to transform the world!
Just when the circumstances looked desperate; just when it appeared that anxiety was going to conquer joy; just when everything seemed hopeless. . .Jesus stepped in and TRANSFORMED the situation. . .not just for the bridal party, but for the world!
The lack of wine at the wedding feast symbolized something else that was lacking. The people of Israel themselves were lacking hope. For many, many years the people had been waiting and waiting for a savior; only to be disappointed time and time again by false prophets and phony messiahs. Like the empty wine jars at the wedding banquet, the faith of the people of Israel was running dry. Their souls were parched by the formalistic. . .empty. . .religion of the Pharisees. The people longed for a time when, in the words of the prophet, Isaiah 62:4, “No more shall people call you Forsaken, or your land Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight, and your land Espoused.”
The people at the wedding in Cana saw water turned into wine. Impressive, yes, but really not that important in the larger scheme of things, unless. . .unless, we understand John’s reason for including this episode in his Gospel. In this first sign, John recognized that Jesus’ entire mission was to transform:
- to transform the water of despair into the wine of hope.
- to transform the water of unbelief into the wine of faith.
- to transform the water of condemnation into the wine of forgiveness.
- to transform the water of death into the wine of eternal life!
Jesus’ mission continues to transform our lives today. Pope Francis says that “The wedding at Cana is repeated in every generation, in every family, in every one of us and our efforts to let our hearts find rest in strong, fruitful and joyful love.”
Has your life been transformed by the “strong, fruitful, and joyful love” of Jesus? Or, do you find yourself running out of the wine of faith; running out of the wine of joy; running out of the wine of hope? Perhaps doubt or anxiety has drained the wine of faith from your life. Perhaps personal illness or the sudden death of a loved one has drained the wine of joy from your life. Perhaps the fear of global terrorism or local violence has drained the wine of hope from your life.
Whatever reason you might have for running out of wine, Mary, the mother of Jesus, provides us with the remedy. In the Gospel account of the miracle at Cana, Mary first approaches Jesus with the problem. . .“They have no wine.” Then she tells the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
The first thing we need to do when we run out of wine is turn to Jesus and tell him, “Lord we have no wine.” Like Mary, we have to place our problems and concerns in Christ’s hands:
- Not in the hands of the latest technology!
- Not in the hands of the loudest politician or celebrity or musician!
- Not in the hands of the newest gadget!
When something is lacking in our lives, we need to go to Christ first.
Second, we need to heed Mary’s words and “do whatever He tells us!” We must listen to Jesus. Of course, listening to Jesus is easier said than done. We are constantly surrounded by the clamor of people who want us to listen to them! There is no lack of people telling us what to do:
- Buy this product!
- Vote for this candidate!
- Use this pill!
- Ignore this rule!
- Ban these people!
- Condemn this person!
In telling the servants to do whatever he tells you, Mary reminds us to open our hearts to Jesus. Jesus is constantly speaking to our hearts through prayer, through scripture, through the sacraments, through the teachings of the Church, through service to one another. We just need to make time to listen.
Today, 2,000+ years after the miracle at Cana, Jesus continues to transform water into wine!
Years ago, when my father asked me if I had the class yet. . .had I taken the class on how to turn water into wine. . .my response should have been, “YES! Yes, I have had the class. . .and guess what. . .so have you Dad!”
And so have each and every one of us who call ourselves “Christians.” All of us have “had the class!” The Lord’s mission of transformation is now our mission! We have been transformed by our Baptism and we continue to be transformed each and every time we receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist!
- We turn water into wine every time we share our faith with someone who has lost hope.
- We turn water into wine every time we go out of our way to befriend someone who is lonely. . .or comfort someone who is sick. . . or attend to the needs of someone who is poor.
- We turn water into wine every time we put the needs of our spouse, our children, our friends, or that stranger on the bus, ahead of our own needs.
We have all “had the class”. . . now it is time to take what we have learned, to take what we have been given, through the grace of God. . . and transform the world!