A NOT VERY RELIGIOUS GESTURE
There was a wedding feast in Galilee. That’s how this story starts, in which we’re told something unexpected and surprising. The first public intervention of Jesus, the One sent by God, has nothing religious about it. It doesn’t take place in a sacred place. Jesus inaugurates his prophetic activity «saving» a wedding party that could have ended very badly.
In those poor villages of Galilee, the wedding party was highly valued by everyone. Through various days, family members and friends accompanied the couple, eating and drinking with them, dancing festive dances and singing love songs.
John’s Gospel tells us that it was in the midst of one of these wedding feasts that Jesus did his «first sign», one that offers us the key to understand his whole activity and the deep sense of his saving mission.
The gospel-writer John doesn’t talk about «miracles». The surprising gestures that Jesus undertakes are always called «signs». He doesn’t want his readers to get stuck in what could have been seen as prodigious in his activity. He invites us to discover their deeper meaning. That’s why he offers us some hints of a symbolic character. Let’s look at just one.
Jesus’ mother, attentive to the details of the party, realizes that «they have no wine» and she passes that onto her son. Maybe the couple, of humble means, find themselves over their heads because of the many partiers. Mary’s worried. The party is in danger. How can a wedding feast go on without wine? She trusts in Jesus.
Among the country people of Galilee, wine was a well-known symbol of joy and love. Everyone knew that. If joy is lacking in our life, if love is lacking, where will our living together end up? Mary isn’t wrong. Jesus intervenes to save the party, supplying abundant wine of good quality.
This gesture of Jesus helps us capture the orientation of his whole life and the fundamental content of his project of God’s Reign. While the religious leaders and the masters of the law are worried about religion, Jesus is dedicated to making the life of the people more human and bearable.
The Gospels present Jesus concentrating not on religion, but on life. He’s not just on the side of religious and pious people. He’s also for those who live betrayed by religion, but who feel the need to live in a more dignified and happy manner. Why? Because Jesus spreads faith in a God in whom we can trust and with whom we can live joyfully, and because he draws people toward a more generous life, one moved by the solidarity of love.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf