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Heaven will be fun…..

January 21, 2013

Sunday 20 January 2013

The gospel reference is John 2: 1-11

Today’s story of the Wedding at Cana only appears in John’s Gospel, perhaps because he was the only one of the four evangelists to have actually been there.

 We can see from the gospel story that when Jesus’ party arrived, the actual wedding ceremony had already taken place, and things had moved on to the wedding feast – what we might call the reception. A wedding was the chance to have a big party and could last up to a week. A mistake the Pharisees made, together with many of us Christians today, is the strange idea that to be holy you have got to be boring, introverted and sometimes downright miserable. The Truth is that God wants us to be happy! And Jesus taking part in a big party – after the religious part of the ceremony – simply to have fun – proves that. Heaven is often portrayed, particularly by Saint John, as a fantastic wedding feast. Heaven will be fun.

 Another wrong idea people have is that everyone in the first century was devoutly religious. The people then were the same as today. In fact, Galilee had a reputation for being a particularly irreligious part of Israel, with Greek influences, lots of gentiles, pagan practices and non-observant Jews. Does that sound a bit like our country today? Don’t get downhearted about it. Be encouraged. Be reassured, because Jesus Himself deliberately chose to minister in what many of the religious leaders in Jerusalem considered to be a sinful and ‘Godless’ place. His mission was to reach out to ordinary people, whether they were church-goers or not.

 The fact that Jesus mixed with all sorts of people and worked miracles for them, often asking people to keep quiet about His good works, is something for us to ponder. When an ordinary couple and their wedding guests needed help, whether they were devoutly religious or not, even if they didn’t even realise they needed or had received help, they got quietly received support from Jesus. Most people at the wedding didn’t even realise that water had been miraculously changed into wine. They were just having a good time.

 Jesus kept a low profile; and so should we, choosing to work quietly in the background, without a big fuss, without getting recognition.

 For the reality of out times is that although Jesus does not feature in most people’s lives nowadays, people are forever getting themselves in to situations where they are at a loss what to do. That’s where we come into the picture. We take Jesus with us wherever we go. If we are faced with a really embarrassing or difficult problem, we Christians can call on Jesus through prayer. Just like we heard Mary His mother doing in the gospel; Jesus responded with unexpected and generous results.

 So why exactly was Jesus’ help needed at the wedding?

The wine was running out. In those times people preferred to water down their wine. So perhaps the drinks handed to the new arrivals tasted just that little bit too weak.

Tradition has it that Jesus preferred His wine with a bit of water in it, and that this is what He did at the Last Supper. In a few minutes, watch what I do when the water and wine is brought forward at the Offertory. I continue to do what the very first Christians did during the mass – I sprinkle a few drops of water into the wine before it consecrated. As I do this I quietly say this prayer:

 By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

 At the Wedding in Cana the risk of the wine running out may have been caused by bad planning, but it’s just as likely to have been that the family couldn’t afford to put on a real hum-dinger of a wedding. In that case the bride and groom would know full well that things were tight. The family would all put on as good a show as possible, the proud parents determined to make the day as enjoyable as possible. They would want to invite all their family and friends, but knew things might run short if everyone turned up. Could you imagine their humiliation and spoilt memories if the guests started making complaints!

 As I said, one person did say something though. That person was Mary. She quietly nudged her Son to do something to avoid embarrassment and to make the bride and groom’s special day a success. In doing this act of charity, it was Mary who was prompting Jesus to reveal his true identity as the Son of God, by encouraging Him to perform His first miracle or sign.

 Jesus’ reply to His mother may seem rather harsh to our ears: “Woman, (what is that to you or me) why turn to me. My hour has not yet come.”

 Calling someone a woman like that is a bit curt isn’t it? In fact, it’s a problem with translation. There isn’t an equivalent word in English to the original Greek term that ends up translated as ‘woman’. The term is actually very polite and respectful. ‘Madam’, or ‘my dear’ just don’t carry the right sense in English. So we’re stuck with ‘woman’. Similarly ‘what is that to you or me’ sounds dismissive. Again, it’s a translation problem. The Hebrew original was a commonly used phrase that today might be better expressed by something like, ‘Hold on, it’ll be OK’.

 In this Year of Faith, those of us who believe in the salvation offered by Jesus Christ should be aware of and understand the way in which God gets involved in events in this world. He does it through committed Christians. The story of the Wedding at Cana is a call to action for us Christians. Jesus worked a miracle by turning water into wine for a newly married couple in a small village, to avoid their big day being spoilt and to save them from humiliation. The miracle happened because someone called Mary, who knew Jesus well, prayed to Him, to Jesus, for help. She was persistent in her prayers. She didn’t know how the help would materialise, but she had faith in Him and told the servants to “do whatever He tells you.” We Christians, as individuals and as The Church, must do the same today. We are key people in Hall Green. Our friends, neighbours and relatives, be they practising Christians or not, face daily crises, humiliations, difficult choices and moral dilemmas. A small group of humble servants like us, who do as we are told by Jesus, can transform our world.

 Mary knew Jesus was not destined to remain an unknown carpenter from Nazareth. She knew and believed He was very special to God, with a mission in the world. We too, like Mary, are privileged to know Jesus, because we know who He really is, we know He is God, and we can ask Him for help and then do what He tells us to do.

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