For those who love stories, the Fourth Gospel, authored by St. John the Evangelist, Apostle of Our Lord, is full of them - true stories, of course. We read among other things about the woman at the well, the Good Shepherd, the raising of Lazarus, the promise of the Bread of Life, the drama of the Passion of Our Lord, and Mary Magdalene meeting the Risen Lord.
Today we hear the story of the marriage feast of Cana, at which Jesus changes water into wine at the request of His Blessed Mother, who takes pity on the young couple who have run out of wine. As in the other stories, there are depths of meaning here which are not always apparent at first reading. For example, the Lord says to His Mother, "My hour has not yet come" (John 2:4). The hour to which He refers is revealed by St. John in a later chapter of his Gospel: "Before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that the hour had come for Him to pass out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, loved them to the end" (John 13:1).
The cheaper wine which did not last was the Old Law, which could not of itself give grace; the new wine was the Gospel of Salvation. Says St. John in the Prologue to his Gospel, "For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). The new wine - six large vessels filled to the brim - signified the Blood of the New Covenant, the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, Who declared, "I am the true vine" (John 15:1).
We find also that St. John is "the disciple," or "the disciple whom Jesus loved," typifying every disciple. Mary is not simply "the Mother of Jesus," but the Woman of the Redemption foretold in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 3:15). And the miracle of the water made wine is the "first of His signs" (John 2:11). There were many other "signs" to follow. The "signs" were to call forth faith in His disciples, as the Evangelist makes clear: "This first of His signs Jesus worked at Cana of Galilee; and He manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him" (Jn.2:11). Near the end of his Gospel St. John writes: "Many other signs also Jesus worked in the sight of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:30,31).
We must take note of an important progression here. It is not immediately evident to those who encounter Him that Jesus Christ is God among us, our Emmanuel. Most of those who saw Him "in the flesh" did not become believers. For this reason He performed His "signs," or miracles, so that those who witness them or hear the Gospel message, may believe in Him. Finally, those who believe in Him are able to have "life in His name." St. John already states this in the prologue of his Gospel, said at every Holy Mass:
"He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But to as many as received Him He gave the power of becoming sons of God; to those who believe in His name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:10-13).
St. John drives home his point in his first Epistle:
"I write of what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have handled: of the Word of Life. And the Life was made known and we have seen, and now testify and announce to you, the Life Eternal which was with the Father, and has appeared to us. What we have seen and have heard we announce to you, in order that you also may have fellowship with us, and that our fellowship may be with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:1-3).
The message for us is that we are not forgotten, we are not abandoned, we are not left out in the cold. As baptized members of the Church, which, through the eyes of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Apostles, was the witness of the "signs," we are also witnesses. In faith we have seen the water made wine, we have beheld His glory, we have a share in "the Word of Life… the Life Eternal which was with the Father, and has appeared to us."
Alas for the church of the present day. It has abandoned the "signs" which Our Lord left for us to strengthen our faith. The stories of Our Lord's miracles are now considered by many to be inventions of the later disciples meant to strengthen their case for Christianity. Where are now the "signs" that inspire faith? And, says Jesus Christ, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find, do you think, faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).
But that is not for us. We treasure the Gospels and the miracles which the Lord worked for our salvation - Jesus walking on the water, Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fishes, Jesus raising the dead to life, Jesus healing the blind and the lame, Jesus changing water into wine, Jesus rising triumphantly from the tomb. He is our Emmanuel - God with us. With Him all things are possible, even my salvation if I keep the faith. But if I continue in my sin, where is my faith?
The best part of it is, we can do more than touch the hem of His garment, or cry out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." Cleansed of our sins through a humble confession, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the wellspring of salvation, we can receive the living Christ, the very Word of Life, the Bread of Heaven, in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Our God speaks through the Prophet Isaiah of the mercies of Jesus Christ, the Son of David:
"All you that thirst, come to the waters: and you that have no money, make haste, buy and eat. Come ye: buy wine and milk without money and without any price. Why do you spend money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which doth not satisfy you? Hearken diligently to me and eat that which is good: and your soul shall be delighted in fatness. Incline your ear and come to me. Hear and your soul shall live. And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the faithful mercies of David. Behold I have given him for a witness to the people, for a leader and a master to the Gentiles" (Isaias 55:1-4).
"Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast words of everlasting life, and we have come to believe and to know that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God" (John 6:69,70).