By Leon Suprenant | August 15, 2007
Since Pope John Paul II introduced the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary a couple years ago, it’s been a joy and sometimes a challenge for my family to embrace these new mysteries. We are always on the lookout for new ways of approaching these rich episodes in Christ’s life.
As we’ve given more attention to the wedding at Cana (Jn. 2:1-11), the second Luminous Mystery, I’ve been amazed at the depth of this passage. There are so many ways to approach this event, when Christ worked His first public miracle.
For one thing, the fact that it’s a wedding itself is significant. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, “the Church attaches great importance to Jesus’ presence at the wedding at Cana. She sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ’s presence” (Catechism, no. 1613). In the midst of a culture that devalues marriage, this mystery redirects our attention to the fundamental goodness of marriage—both as a human institution and as a personal vocation in Christ.
The wedding at Cana also shows our Blessed Mother in action. As we pray in the Hail Holy Queen, Mary is our “most gracious Advocate.” As she interceded for the poor couple who ran out of wine at their wedding, she intercedes for each one of us. Her purpose is always to manifest and magnify her Son’s glory (see Jn. 2:11). She encourages each one of us, as she encouraged the servants at the wedding, to “do whatever He tells you” (Jn. 2:5). That, in an inexhaustible nutshell, is the essence of Christian discipleship.
The wedding at Cana is the first of seven “signs” in the Gospel of John that bring to light the glory of God shining forth through the Word made flesh. The Catechism succinctly describes the meaning of this “sign”: “The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the hour of Jesus’s glorification. It makes manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father’s kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ” (Catechism, no. 1335; see also no. 2618).
Recently another, perhaps less obvious dimension of this Luminous Mystery came to light for me. As I was prayerfully reading the passage, I stopped at verse 10, where the steward of the feast says: “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
This makes for an interesting contrast with the multiplication of the loaves. In the multiplication of the loaves, our Lord does just that—He multiplies. The miracle is that a few loaves are able to feed thousands with plenty left over. There’s no mention of the bread somehow improving in quality. It’s enough of a miracle that there’s sufficient bread for the multitude.
At the wedding at Cana, however, the “water now become wine” wasn’t simply more of the same. It fact, the steward seems to suggest that at this point the guests would have been content with a lesser vintage. Yet the wine Jesus miraculously gives far exceeds everyone’s expectation. It is the “good wine.”
On a spiritual level, I find myself wanting the “good wine.” Where do I find this “good wine”? This question sounds very much like the question the woman at the well posed to Jesus a couple chapters later in St. John’s Gospel: “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw” (Jn. 4:15).
In both cases, the answer is found at the Cross, where the blood and water flowing from the pierced side of Jesus gives abundant, new life. We’re speaking here of the sacramental life of the Church, through which the Blessed Trinity channels divine life to us. And so in the Eucharist, our Lord changes ordinary bread, along with wine, “the blood of the grape” (Dt. 32:4), into His own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Whenever we receive this “living bread,” we receive the awesome gift of partaking more fully in God’s very life. This is the “good wine” par excellence. The Lord gives us “good wine” in these sublime sacramental encounters not only to quench our thirst at the moment, but as a means for us to experience and savor His abiding presence in our lives in a powerful way.
As psychologist Richard Carlson notes, “Our inbox probably won’t be empty when we die.” This is simply a clever way of saying that we tend to approach our lives as a series of tasks to check off our “to do” list. We push ahead through the seeming monotony of our daily lives toward some nebulous future moment when we’ll be able to enjoy the fruit of our labors.
Yet the “good wine” Christ wants to give us is not in the unattainable future. Rather, Christ wants to give us “good wine” right now—not as an end in itself, but to prepare our “taste buds” for the heavenly banquet. The “good wine” is not elsewhere, but can and must be found right here, amidst our daily struggles. As we become more attentive to the present moment, to the superabundant “good wine” within our reach, we’re better able to allow Christ’s life within us to transform the “water” of our mundane lives. This life of grace is now, it’s real and, like the water made wine at Cana, it’s surprising.
What God wants to give us right now is better than anything we could desire or work for on our own. As Isaiah asks, why do we spend our money for that which is not bread, and our labor for that which does not satisfy? (Is. 55:2). God is not a demanding slave master or even a disinterested patriarch. He’s a Father who delights in the marriage of His Son to His Church and, more pointedly, who delights in each and every one of us. He is eager to infuse our lives with the “good wine.”