The ordinary but deep joy of living
While I grew up hearing about the miracle of Cana only in the context of "the institution of the sacrament of marriage," most scholars focus on the "sign" (that's what John calls miracles; think of them as signs pointing to something else, beyond themselves) of God's reign breaking through, and marriage itself is not of central importance for the larger meaning of the text. However, Renita Weems provides a lovely reflection that compares the spiritual journey to marriage: "It hits highs and lows, goes through seasons of ecstasy and ennui, and you find yourself wondering whether it's possible to regain the passion, the conviction, the spiritual momentum you once enjoyed. The message of this second Sunday after the Epiphany is yes. Take those empty stone jars, fill them to the brim with the water of hope, prayer, and persistence, and draw from them." We encounter Christ, she writes, not only in mountain-top experiences, for "he has been known to show up in miraculous ways on more than one occasion in the simple day-to-day activities of drawing water from wells, preparing food, tending sheep, and trying to figure out what to do when the wine runs out at a wedding celebration" (New Proclamation 2000).
Indeed, several commentators on this story about a celebration turn our attention to the ordinary but deep joy of living, and our habit of letting it slip by: "Sometimes, the church has forgotten that our Lord once attended a wedding feast and said yes to gladness and joy," Robert Brearley writes. "God does not want our religion to be too holy to be happy in" (Feasting on the Word). "Too holy to be happy in": there's a sermon in there! It seems that we in the church need to examine our role in suppressing the joy of a life lived in and by grace, a life lived fully, abundantly, vibrantly. "When John's Gospel speaks of salvation as life, the meaning is not mere life, but life in its maximal sense: life invigorated and intensified," Richard Bauckham writes; "Jesus gives life by connecting people with the divine springs of life from which the vitality of life is constantly sustained and replenished" (The Lectionary Commentary).
Labels: Gospel reading