If we take the miracle of Cana literally, we reduce it to a once-off wonder and greatly limit its meaning. It’s not really about the power to change water into wine. We already know how to do that – it happens every year in our vineyards and wineries. The miracle has a deeper and broader meaning, and one that is valid for all time. It’s about something far more wonderful. In attempting to describe the relationship between God and his people, the Bible uses the image of a bridegroom and his bride. And in describing the joy God finds among his people, it uses the image of a wedding feast.
The First Reading contains a message of hope for God’s people at one of the lowest moments in their history. Jerusalem lay in ruins and many of the people were exiled in Babylon. Israel, once God’s bride, is now like a widow bereft of children. However, her husband, God, has not forgotten her. There will be a new wedding feast. God will restore his people. This promise was fulfilled in the return from exile, but more especially in the coming of Jesus. It’s no surprise to find that Jesus started his public ministry at a wedding feast. At that wedding the wine ran out. This was a way of saying that the old religion, the old observances, had been found wanting. The time has come for the promises to be fulfilled. The time has come for a new law and a new spirit.
The prophets had foretold an abundance of wine in messianic days. At Cana Jesus provided just that. And all those who tasted the new agreed that it was better than the old. We note the sheer generosity of the miracle. Those six jars were capable of holding somewhere between twenty and thirty gallons each. We see not only Jesus” power, but also his generosity. We get a glimpse of the warmth of his heart. The new order began with an act of compassion. What Jesus did at Cana was not a once-off thing. It pointed to what would happen all through his ministry. The changing of water into wine is a symbol for what he was about. Everywhere he went the old was made new. For the widow of Nain he changed tears into joy. For Zacchaeus he changed selfishness into love. For the thief on Calvary he changed despair into hope. And on Easter morning he changed death into life. His presence could change beyond recognition the lives of those with whom he came into contact. And he continues to do this for those who believe in him and follow him. He transforms our lives into something wonderful. He offers us something that we pine for but can’t achieve on our own. He offers us a share in the divine life. But all of this will remain at the level of theory unless we experience it in our lives, unless in some way in our own lives Jesus changes water into wine.