The Real Reason that the Wine Ran Out in the Wedding at Cana

by Gospels

Catholic Bible Study On The Gospel of John 2:1-11 

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”

So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from — although the servers who had drawn the water knew —, the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”

Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.

Catholic Reflection

Over the course of the last few years, and a little by accident, I’ve accompanied a certain number of couples and families in their walk of faith. And I must admit that at the beginning I was a bit skeptical because I obviously felt unprepared, but their sincere desire ended up convincing me.

For me, it’s been a bit of a revelation that has helped me better understand why spousal images are constantly used throughout the Bible to speak of God’s love.

In all sincerity, married couples impress me with their courage and they are teaching me what it means to give one’s life for the other. I’m always left marveling at their desire to gamble their lives for the sake of another’s: another that can always change, betray, fail. To marry is to put limits on one’s life: allowing the other person to become a boundary for me. To marry is to diminish oneself in order to make room for another. It is to accept being pulled out of our own radical egoism every day. In other words, to marry is to incarnate love!

I think that we as priests must look at the human reality of marriage – not in an idealized way, not thinking of the families from the commercials, or from The Little House on the Prairie, or The Bradford Family, but the married couples that prove their fidelity to each other through the struggles of daily life – and only then can we open the Bible and reread the Word in which God presents himself as the Spouse of humanity, just like in this passage from the Gospel of John.

First of all, this wedding scene teaches us that our human lives are made up of different times, different moments: there’s a time for celebration, for falling in love, but there’s also a time when the wine runs out and the celebration is in danger of ending earlier than expected. There are times in which God reveals himself in our lives and times in which He chooses to remain silent.

There are times in life when we are rich and we can invite others to participate in our joy and there are times when we are poor, like this couple, who did not have enough wine to share. But I like to think that the wine ran out because there were more guests than expected: it makes me think of a couple that knows how to welcome all without counting, a couple with a love so deep they make everyone around them always feel at home.

Some who comment on this passage say that the wine ran out because the couple was poor. Personally, I prefer to think that the wine ran out because they had so many friends. It would be beautiful if every home ran out of wine due to their great hospitality. Only when we share all the wine we have, only if we let it all be consumed, only then will Christ come to repeat His miracle, giving us not just any wine, but the best.

A relationship that does not share with others is destined to drink only from their own wine as long as it lasts or until it goes bad.

Sometimes I meet sad or angry couples that greatly resemble the empty jars from this Gospel. Stone jars, just like a heart that hardens with time due to disappointments and a lack of forgiveness. The jars to which John refers were for water that was used for the ablutions, that is for washing oneself well as the law prescribed.

Sometimes it is the law, the obligations, the worries that love can bring about that empty us like those jars. If the jars are not refilled with the wine of joy and forgiveness they become worthless; they are the mere semblance of what they were, like our withered and angry hearts.

Jesus does not only change water into wine but he also transforms the jars. They are no longer instruments for the carrying out of the law but become the source of joy. When a couple starts to try to assign responsibilities and obligations it means that the heart is already emptying and becoming an empty jar.

John speaks of six jars, a number that also appears in the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman who had six husbands. The number signifies imperfection, something incomplete. For the Samaritan woman, the seventh husband will be the true husband, the one that speaks to her: Jesus himself. In the same way, the seventh jar will be the side of the Crucified Christ, from which water and blood flows.

God cannot but explain himself through human language, the only one we understand. At the end of the wedding banquet, the headwaiter thanks the unnamed bridegroom that has given the guests the best wine. Here Jesus is not only the one who gives a wedding gift, here Jesus is the Bridegroom. It is He who marries humanity.

For this reason, only by discovering the human reality of marriage can we learn something more about how God loves his people. Jesus is the Spouse of that land that will no longer be called Forsaken nor Devastated (see Isaiah 62). Such is the love of Christ: that of a spouse!

Questions for reflection

How much wine is left in our jars? Is there some left or should we organize ourselves for a miracle?

– What does the image of Christ as the Bridegroom mean for your life?

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