A wedding is a joyous occasion. Not only the bride and groom, but also their families and all the invited guests enjoy and celebrate a wedding. The celebration usually goes on for hours after the wedding ceremony. In some cultures the celebration lasts for some days.
In today's gospel reading Jesus is a guest at a wedding. Several things seem noteworthy to me about this gospel. First of all there is the interaction between Jesus and his mother. Mary was also a guest at the wedding. The fact that she learned of the wine shortage before most of the other guests, and the fact that she really wanted to help the wedding party indicates to me that Mary was a very favored guest who probably was a good friend of those in the wedding party. Jesus may have received his invitation because he was Mary's son. The problem that arose was the that the wine ran out. In Israel, as in all the lands of the Middle East, grapes grew in profusion and vineyards were common. Wine was a very common drink for all the people. Wine was also a very important part of a wedding celebration. At most weddings great quantities of wine were consumed and the guests expected the wine to last until the celebration ended. It would have been a real humiliation for the wedding party to have the wine run out before the celebration ended. Yet that apparently is just what happened at this wedding. When Mary found out about the lack of wine she went to Jesus to seek his help. If Jesus could help, it would spare the humiliation for the wedding party of telling the guests that the wine was gone. But Mary does not ask Jesus for help. She tells him only that the wine is gone. Jesus replies that it is no concern of his and that the time for his miracles has not yet come. Yet Jesus does help. He changes water into wine and saves the situation.
It seems to me that there is non-verbal communication here between Mary and Jesus. In spite of what they say aloud, they agree that Jesus will help. Even though she does not say so aloud, Mary clearly wants Jesus to help. And in spite of his reply to Mary, Jesus does help and eliminates the problem. This is a fascinating glimpse of the relationship between mother and son. I think that we would like to have more examples like this, but the gospels provide us with very few scenes about Mary and Jesus.
The other thing that strikes me about this gospel is the miracle itself. The miracles of Jesus are meant to reveal his glory and lead people to believe in and follow him. Such is the case in today's reading as St. John reminds us in the last
sentence. But the miracles of Jesus also reveal his compassion. The subjects of the vast majority of his miracles are the poor, the sick, the disabled, and those marginalized by society. The miracles of healing, raising from the dead, and expulsion of demons demonstrate the power and the compassion of Jesus. But today's miracle is different. The subject of this miracle is not someone who is suffering from a bodily ailment. Rather it is intended to prevent the suffering of humiliation. And this miracle is not done out of compassion, although Jesus probably had compassion for the predicament of the wedding party. It seems to have come at the behest of his mother. Like the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, Jesus here works a miracle to remedy a temporary problem. The gospel of St. John lists this as the first miracle of Jesus. His public life here on earth is just beginning, and he is not yet attracting great crowds to hear his words and witness his miracles. It seems fitting then, that this miracle takes place in a setting where Jesus is with those who know and love him best. He is with his mother and with other friends from the years of his growing up. Amongst them he begins the work of preaching and teaching that he came to do. Amongst them his public life begins.