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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Wedding at Cana

The wedding at Cana is the location of the first of Jesus’ miracles.  Let us dig a little deeper into this luminous mystery and begin uncover the riches of this story.

This story is found in John Chapter 2 and opens up with the words “on the third day”…well on the third day from what is the question to ask.  What is a beautiful and somewhat shocking to discover is that in the Gospel of John he opens with a kind of new creation week.

John 1:1 begins the same way as Genesis 1:1 with these words – In the beginning… St. John is presenting  Jesus as both the one through whom God created the world and also the one through whom God will begin this new creation. Not only does St. John begin with this creation theme but he continues in this theme throughout John Chapter 1. St. John keeps saying  - one then next day – Jesus did this – on the next day Jesus did that – on the next day, one the next day. If you read carefully and count the days by the end of Chapter one you are on the 4th day, but then John says in Chapter 2 On the third day, meaning the third day from that final 4th day at the end of Chapter 1 which bring us to the 7th day. It is not as confusing if you just read it for yourself.

Yet we see these days still significant another time.

Yes,  and what makes these days significant are the stone jars that are present at the wedding.

John 2:6 Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.

What Jewish rite of purification are they talking about here?  It could be something as simple as washing before and after meals. But it could also have to do with the book of Numbers 19:11-22, where it talks about getting washed with water on the third day and on the seventh day. Now John has just told us in verse 1 that it was the third day, but I also showed you that it is the completion of John new creation week and is the seventh day. So this wedding is on the 3rd day and the 7th day.

In the book of Numbers you would wash yourself on the 3rd day and the 7th day if you came in contact with a dead person. You would be ceremonially unclean for 7 days and then could after washing you could rejoin worship at the temple. So these stone jars with water were possibly for people who were unclean, it gave them a chance to purify themselves before coming to the party. But when Jesus changes the water into wine, he makes it so that these jars can no longer be used for the ceremonial washing, because they are no longer filled with water for cleansing, but wine for partying.  Jesus therefore kind of forces the people to be not able to practice the Law of Moses and become a sign of the heavenly banquet at the end of the world where the best wine will be served at the marriage feast of the lamb.

At the same time though Jesus is introducing himself here as a kind of new Moses.

St. John in Chapter  had also ready introduced Jesus as the New Passover lamb when he said – behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Now when St. John ends this story about the wedding at Cana he uses these words in John 2:11 – This was the first of Jesus’ signs. Now why is this miracle not called a miracle but a sign? It is because St. John is trying to show Jesus as a new Moses with a new kind of Passover. If you recall that Moses did ‘signs’ for Pharaoh that he was sent from God, and the first of his signs was that he took the water and made it into blood.

Exodus 7:19  And the LORD said to Moses, "Say to Aaron, `Take your rod and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.'"

Hey – vessles of stone – like stone jars? So Moses comes with plagues to set his people free in the first Exodus, Jesus comes with blessings that set his people free in the new Exodus.

This wedding also points us to the cross.

Jesus himself links this event to the cross when he says to his mother in 2:4 My hour has not yet come. Well what hour is he talking about? If you continue to study the Gospel of John, Jesus uses that “hour several times – for example:

John 4:21   Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

John 12:23  And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. John 12:27  "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? `Father, save me from this hour'? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.

So he is definitely talking about the hour of his suffering and death.

It is here that Steve Ray said something really cool. Steve said – doesn’t it bother you that there are 6 stone jars there at the wedding – isn’t the New Testament about  the number 7 – the number of the covenant. 7 sacraments, 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit… He said – I think that the Gospel does mention a 7th jar and that is Christ himself on the cross, when his side is pierced what comes out – water and blood, that is brought to us sacramentally through the accidents of wine at Mass.