domenica 17 gennaio 2016

Nozze di Cana

Icona della chiesa dei SS. Pietro e Paolo a Ponticelli, Napoli (*)

We have already begun the so-called Ordinary Time; but the second Sunday of this liturgical season still shows traces of the mystery of Epiphany. Next Sunday we will start the progressive reading of Luke’s gospel; today, instead, the liturgy proposes again a passage from the gospel of John: the wedding at Cana. We know this story very well; we are accustomed to hearing it often, even because it is one of the gospels used for the celebrations of the Blessed Virgin Mary: we actually read it every year on our patronal festival, Our Lady of Divine Providence. On those occasions we usually emphasize the role played at Cana by the mother of Jesus, which is the role she plays in the economy of salvation, that is, a mediation role: it is she that somehow forces Jesus to intervene. Well, but, doing so, we often neglect so many other aspects of the story.

We usually think that the wedding at Cana is important just because it is the first miracle of Jesus. But if we read attentively the gospel, we realize that John puts it in a different way: “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.” You see? The changing of water into wine is not just a wondrous deed, but a sign through which Jesus reveals himself, discloses his identity, manifests his glory (that is why we were saying that we are still in the climate of Epiphany, the manifestation of the Lord). In John’s gospel we find seven signs; the wedding at Cana is the beginning of them: the “beginning,” not only the first, but the archetype, that is, the example, the model of all other signs. In this account everything is important: we have to consider both the whole and the details; each aspect has its own meaning.

First of all, let us consider the context of the passage. It is situated at the beginning of the fourth gospel. This gospel opens with the same words as the first book of the Bible: “In the beginning...” Genesis narrates the creation of the world, which lasts seven days. Likewise, John starts his gospel relating the first week of Jesus’ public ministry. It is a kind of “new creation.” The wedding at Cana happens at the end of this opening week, on the seventh day; but the story begins with the phrase “On the third day” (third after the previous account, that is, the meeting of Jesus with Nathanael). Well, the third day is the day of the covenant: God had said to Moses in the desert, “On the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai before the eyes of all the people” (Ex 19:11). The covenant between God and his people is usually compared in the Old Testament to a wedding: so, at Cana a new covenant is about to be made between God and humanity, between Christ and the Church. On Mount Sinai God had revealed his glory giving his law, the ten commandments; at Cana Jesus reveals his glory giving the new wine. 

What is this new wine, or better this “good wine” (literally, “beautiful wine”)? It is the Gospel, the new law, the new covenant Jesus has come to establish. The gospel tells us that “there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings.” Please notice: the jars are six; one is wanting to reach the number of perfection, seven. They are made of stone, like the tablets of the law of Moses. They serve for the Jewish rites of purification, but they are now empty. It seems exactly the portrayal of the old covenant, imperfect and unable to save. Jesus orders the jars to be filled to the brim: this means that the old covenant is not to be abolished, but filled, fulfilled, brought to completion. What was the old covenant lacking in? Jesus tells the servants to fill the jars with water: in the fourth gospel water is usually a symbol of the Spirit. And that is precisely what the old covenant needed; and Jesus has come to fulfill it with the gift of the Holy Spirit. And from this gift the “good wine,” that is, the new covenant gushes forth.

Jesus tells the servants to take the wine to the headwaiter. This one appreciates the wine, but he does not know where it comes from, while the servants do. Only the servants know the origin of the good wine: there is no need of being important people to know important things; only the small ones often know what really matters. There is need of being servants to see miracles. But the servants were able to experience the power of God, because they thoroughly did what Jesus told them. As unprofitable servants (Lk 17:10), let us do what the Lord tells us, so that we too may see his wonders.

(*) Non posso che consigliare a tutti la visione del sito di questa parrocchia: contiene tante cose belle da scoprire. Il parroco, come l’evangelico «scriba divenuto discepolo del regno dei cieli», ha saputo estrarre «dal suo tesoro cose nuove e cose antiche» (Mt 13:52).