At this moment, any discussion of celebration seems somewhat out of place, it doesn’t feel quite right, given the current circumstances. We cannot currently celebrate together, nor do we want to; nonetheless it is still important to ponder the words of Holy Scripture and through them to be brought ever closer to Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. This is the purpose of prayer, and Christian worship: to be drawn ever closer to the God who loves us, who gives himself for us, so that we might have life in Him.
Our first reading this morning from the Book Genesis describes the meeting of Abram with Melchizedek the King of Salem in the context of a military victory. Melchizedek welcomes his guest by bringing out bread and wine. This is significant because it is royal food and drink, as shown by Jesse’s gift to Saul in 1Samuel 16:20:
And Jesse took a donkey laden with bread and a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them by David his son to Saul.
It is this royal food and drink, the food and drink which accompanies sacrifices, the food of celebration, rather than the simple fare of bread and water. For Christians it points forward to the Last Supper when Jesus takes bread and wine and says, ‘This is my Body … This is my Blood’ and commands us to do this in memory of Him. Melchizedek is a priest and a king, the ruler of Jerusalem, and he worships God, the God of Abram. He is generous and hospitable, and as a result Abram is generous in return, giving Melchizedek a tenth of what he has.
Our second reading from Revelation gives us a glimpse of the worship of Heaven, and the marriage feast of the Lamb. The marriage feast is a sign of the unity between Christ and His Church, and points to the Eucharist as the earthly sign of the heavenly reality. Our worship here on earth mirrors the heavenly reality and indicates the future that God has in store for those who love Him.
Weddings are joyful occasions. They are a cause for personal and communal celebration. Unlike our current western practice, Jewish weddings in the time of Jesus were week-long celebrations to which the entire community was invited. The idea of a seven-day party is both appealing and terrifying, wonderful and yet a logistical nightmare. We are dealing with a culture motivated by shame and honour, where the loss of face involved in running out of food or drink would have been catastrophic.
So it is no surprise that Jesus, His mother Mary, and the disciples are all invited to the wedding, as it is a celebration for the whole community. The lack of wine represents a big problem, and so Mary’s concern for the families is real and genuine. She does not want them to experience such shame and acts to avoid this nightmare situation.
Jesus’ reply to His Mother, ‘Woman … come’, could be seen as curt and dismissive. However, Jesus is not being rude, instead His remark refers to a far larger context than the wedding, that is the whole of His Earthly ministry. He tells His Mother that it is isn’t their problem, and states that His hour has not yet come: It is not yet His time. Jesus’ hour comes with His Death upon the Cross, when He will wipe away our sins, and take all our shame upon Himself.
Despite what Jesus says to her , Mary instructs the servants to, ‘Do whatever He tells you’. In this simple phrase she shows us that the key is obedience to the will of God: Listen to what God says and do it. It is that simple and straightforward. As Christians we need to follow her example. Our life should be rooted in obedience: we need to listen to God and obey, for our own good, and the good of the Kingdom. We need to follow the will of God and not be conformed to the world and its ways. We need to truly enter into the joy of the Lord, in humble obedience, be fed by Him, and fed with Him, who died for love of us, in submission to the will of the Father.
This is not the only celebration Jesus attends. We read in the Gospels that Jesus liked nothing better than to hang around at parties with all sorts of people, especially social undesirables. He was even accused by Scribes and Pharisees of being a glutton and a drunkard. In both Luke [7:34] and Matthew [11:19] we see Jesus rejoicing in such name-calling,
‘the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”’ (Mt 11:19) [cf. Deut 21:20: ‘and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’’’ The next verse talks of death by stoning, and looks forward to Our Lord’s Crucifixion at Calvary.]
Jesus enjoys eating and drinking because feasting is a sign of the Kingdom of God. It is clearly shown in the prophecy of Isaiah:
‘On this mountain the Lord of Hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined. And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”’ (Isa 25:6-9)
Here prophecy is fulfilled and we see a glimpse of the banquet at the end of time which is our hope in Heaven, the hope of John’s vision in Revelation.
The extravagant Wedding party points to something greater than itself. It is a foreshadowing of the joy of the Kingdom. It is a taste of the lavish excess that our God, whose love and generosity are beyond our understanding, wishes to bestow on us, as a sign of His love for us.
The world today struggles somewhat with extravagance, and rightly so: when we see the super-rich with gold-plated taps in their mansions and super-yachts we are right to be concerned, yet in the Gospel we see something strange. The head steward has a point: you serve the best wine first, while people can most appreciate it. The Kingdom of God, however, turns human values on their head – the joyous new wine of the Kingdom is finer than any human wine. It is lavished upon undeserving humanity, so that it might transform us, so that we might come to share in the glory of God, and his very nature. Christ therefore becomes the true master of the feast, as He will feed humanity from the abundance of the Heavenly Wedding Feast.
Thus, as we start this new year, we see a three-fold dawning of the Glory of God in Christ Jesus. First , Our Lord’s manifestation to the Gentiles, is the proclamation of the Messiah to the whole world. Then, His Baptism, which shows us the way to the Father, is a sign of love and obedience. Now the Wedding Feast at Cana, is a sure sign of the superabundance of God’s love. Let us live out that love in our lives, and share it with others so that they may sing the praises of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion and power, now and forever. Amen.