Ordinary Time begins after the Baptism of the Lord. I love detecting anomalies and then finding the explanation behind them. I realized that for this Sunday, the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, all three gospel readings for all three cycles (A, B, C—apparently we could not come up with better names to identify the cycles) have readings that are taken from John’s gospel, instead of the synoptic gospels we read through the year (Mark, Matthew and Luke, respectively.) You read the gospels in all three years and it is easy to realize that all three are about Jesus’ identity. In year A, we read John’s version of the Baptism (thus reading about the baptism of Jesus two Sundays in a row;) in year B, we find the gospel about two of John the Baptist’s disciples visiting Jesus because they want to know who he is—and Jesus tells them, “Come and see.” This Sunday we read the first of Jesus’ miracles in John’s gospels (they are called “signs”) at a wedding in Cana. If you have followed my argument, this gospel is not about marriage, but, like the other two years in the cycle, about Jesus’ identity as well.
The scene in Cana tells us a lot about Jesus. Despite the tendency to make him into an ascetic character, he was at a wedding with his disciples—so, maybe Jesus was a bit more joyful than we have been told at times; the gospel shows also what we already knew, Jesus was someone who cared for others; the miracle produces wine in extraordinary quantity and quality. We may not be able to imitate Jesus’ power to turn water into wine, but we can learn to be joyful and care for others, and commit to quality and abundance in our care (and really, in everything we do.)
Still, what I believe tells us the most about Jesus is where the miracle comes from. You notice it often in the gospels, miracles must start with something. The miracles of the multiplication of fish and loaves began with five loaves and two fishes that someone had to present. The miracle at Cana begins with the water of the jars, which, as we are told, were there for the “Jewish ceremonial washing.” What Jesus does is to turn the water of cleansing—the point of the ritual—into the wine of celebration. Jesus was someone who would place less emphasis on the cleansing and more accent on the celebration. As John the Baptist tells us, Jesus will take us beyond the personal cleansing (the baptism of Jesus is a baptism of Holy Spirit and fire.)
But I think it tells us more. Let me put it this way: Perhaps Jesus would have liked the ceremonial washing more if it was less ceremonial and more real. Rituals are supposed to represent something real, or they become a compilation of empty gestures. What came to mind for me was the beginning of Mass, when we start with the Penitential Act. There are several ways to do it, here at Sacred Heart we often say the Confiteor (literally, the “I confess”) and we sing the Kyrie (Lord, Have Mercy.) It is a ritual, but does it respond to the a reality of us asking for forgiveness from God and others? Do we really invoke God’s mercy because we understand that we are sinful? We could refer to many other ceremonies/rituals that we celebrate and wonder if they are just rituals or if we experience them as something deeper: the Sacraments, the way we pray, when someone asks us to be a sponsor for someone, the way we participate at Mass, etc.
At Cana, Jesus’ disciples get a better glimpse of who Jesus really is, and begin to believe in him. And so we do, too.