John the Evangelist doesn’t say that Jesus did «miracles» or «marvels». He calls them «signs» because they are gestures that point toward something deeper than what our eyes can see. Concretely the signs that Jesus performs point to Jesus’ person and describe his saving power to us.
What happened in Cana of Galilee is the beginning of all these signs. It is the prototype of those that Jesus will go about performing throughout his life. In that «changing of water into wine» we find the key to understand the type of saving transformation that Jesus works and that his followers must work in his name.
It all happens in the context of a wedding feast, the human party par excellence, the most expressive symbol of love, the best image of the biblical tradition to express the definitive communion of God with human beings. Jesus’ salvation must be lived and offered by his followers as a party that gives fullness to all human parties when these end up empty, «without wine» and without being able to fill our desire for complete happiness.
The story suggests something more. The water can only be tasted as wine when it’s «drawn out» –following Jesus’ command– of six large stone water jars used by the Jews for their purifications. The religion of the law that is written on stone tablets is worn out; there’s no water capable of purifying human beings. That religion needs to be freed by the love and the life that Jesus communicates.
We can’t evangelize just any old way. In order to communicate the transforming power of Jesus, words aren’t enough: gestures are needed. Evangelizing isn’t just talking, preaching or teaching; even less is it judging, threatening or condemning. We need to bring about the signs that Jesus did with creative fidelity in order to interject the joy of a God who brings happiness to the hard life of those peasants.
Many of our contemporaries find themselves indifferent in the presence of the Church’s word. Our celebrations bore them. They need to see signs that are closer and more friendly on the part of the Church in order to discover in us Christians Jesus’ capacity to alleviate the suffering and the hardness of life.
Who today wants to listen to something that no longer seems to be joyful news, especially if the Gospel gets invoked with an authoritative and threatening tone? Jesus Christ is awaited by many as a power and a reason to exist, and a path to live more sensitively and joyfully. If people only know a “watered-down religion” and can’t taste something of the festive joy that Jesus spreads, many will continue walking away.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf