SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
“Do whatever he tells you.” Jn: 2:5
There are many jokes told about this famous Gospel account of Jesus turning water into wine. Here’s one of them:
A priest is driving to Chicago and gets stopped for speeding. The state trooper smells alcohol on the priest’s breath and then sees an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car. He says to the priest, “Sir, have you been drinking?” “Just water,” says the priest. The trooper responds, “Then why do I smell wine?” The priest looks at the bottle and says, “Good Lord! He’s done it again.”
“Without wine,” say the rabbis of Jesus’ time, “there is no joy.” Not that people got that tipsy because being drunk was considered a big disgrace. But, this is a wedding.
Everybody loves a wedding. Joy is everywhere. Many of life’s most delightful experiences are on display.
The affection so warmly expressed by the bride and groom. The festive dresses. The handsome tuxes. The glorious flowers. The sacred music. The supportive gathering of family and friends. The heartwarming laughter that fills the halls of the reception. The spontaneous dancing that motivates everyone to join in … all of this creates a moment of unforgettable joy and delight.
And let us not forget the wine. Jesus certainly didn’t!
This story is remarkable because in his first presentation of Jesus, John seems to be telling us that the God who Jesus reveals was first unveiled at a wedding feast in the midst of joy and dancing and laughter and grand fun.
John even goes further to suggest that this supreme expression of human love best reveals the kind of God that the Father is, and the kind of communion that can exist between God and a human being.
It’s perhaps best depicted by the abundant overflowing of wine.
But the story also tells us something more. And it’s through the words of Mary, Jesus’ mother, that we find what that “more” is.
In the midst of all the festive happiness, and in the midst of all the exciting entertainment, a problem has arisen. Mary is the first to notice it, and so she immediately informs Jesus that something very important is missing: the wine.
Jesus’ response is strikingly abrupt, even rude: “Woman, how does your concern affect me?” Or, as one contemporary translation puts it: “Is that any of your business, Mother?” This is not the kind of response one would expect from a son to a mother, especially from Jesus to Mary.
But, if the reply of Jesus to his mother is surprising, even more so is her reaction to it. Mary does not allow it to deter her. Instead, she tells the servants – and, by extension, you and me – “Do whatever he tells you.”
By doing what she did, Mary became the first person to demonstrate that the right response to the presence of Jesus is trust – trust in his word; trust in his self-surrender; trust in his relationship with Abba, the Father.
Mary’s trust sets the stage for Jesus’ first miracle. In doing so, the mother of Jesus is the first to show each of us what true belief in Jesus looks like. It looks like a trust that is unconditional, even in the face of an apparent rejection.
Mary also helps us understand the meaning of the action Jesus takes because of her direct intercession. The old wine of God’s message through Moses has lost its flavor, its zest. The stone jars that represent the “way things have always been done” as the empowering force of their faith life have become empty. The religion of the past has been watered down. It’s lost its vitality, its energy, its authority.
What was needed was a new “wine,” a new view of God and his lavish love that would fill us to overflowing. What was needed was a “wine” that would welcome the Spirit and bring our lives a dynamism and liveliness to animate the world we live in.
John begins his Gospel proclaiming that God can intoxicate us with new life and new hope… telling us that Jesus is calling us to live a life removed from the same old place – that tired, dead, fixed place where nothing new can be born; that flat, dull, place where we can easily become depressed and cynical; that predictable place where life becomes “the same old same old.”
The wine represents a new kind of place: a place where we give ourselves wholeheartedly to that mysterious, marvelous God-centered alchemy that turns tedium into creativity, certainty into surprise, water into wine.
The wine that overflows symbolizes our need for a transformative influence in each of our lives. It tells us that we need something inherently powerful that will wake us up, focus our minds, warm our hearts, strengthen our wills, and compel us to move away from the stone jars of stale enthusiasm and begin to feel again the joy of the wedding dance and the thrill of the great message of the wildly extravagant, boundless love that God has for each of us.
The way to do that is through trust – a trust that drinks the new wine of doing “whatever he tells you,” a trust that will find us proclaiming with the priest caught speeding: “Good Lord! He’s done it again.”
Ted Wolgamot, Psy.D.