The miracle of Cana was once about water being changed into wine but it is not about that today, rather it is about something far deeper and much more wonderful. Its all about us being offered a new source of inner life when the old wells have run dry; a connection to our deeper selves that is in essence divine.
What Jesus did at Cana was really a pointer to what would happen throughout his ministry. Everywhere he went the old was to be made new. For the widow of Nain he changed tears into joy. For Zacchaeus he changed selfishness into love. For the thief on Calvary he changed despair into hope and on Easter morning he changed death into life.
It was his presence that could change beyond recognition the lives of all those with whom he came into contact with and that is still his desire for us today. Prudish people may look at the wedding feast of Cane and say what was he up to; imagine making a hundred and fifty gallons of vino, that’s six hundred bottles. Surely that was way over the top. Yet here was God’s right hand man performing a miracle that had the potential to leave them all plastered. It was a powerful symbol of the kingdom breaking through into the human reality of a wedding and bringing a whole new level of excitement and joy. Many saints and sages in their estatic moments have been accused of being drunk with alcohol when in fact they were alive with Spirit.
In one of the Eucharistic prayers there is a sentence which goes, ‘You inebriate our inner being with the gift of the Spirit’. There are some who can identify totally with those words because it is their experience. Unfortunately that is not true for many because there is nothing of an experiential nature for them to connect with. It may well be that the part of the story the vast majority of Catholics connect with is ‘We have run out of wine,’ or we are fast running short.
What might that old wine that is running short represent in our lives? In the story the young couple no doubt believed that the wine they had provided would be more than enough to see them through the celebrations. The thirst of those they had invited must have been far greater than they had anticipated. Could it be that the thirst of this generation is of a much greater and of a different order than that of earlier ones.
Up until recent times most people had to struggle hard to make ends meet and were satisfied if they had something left over for the rainy day and enough to bury them. For the majority survival is no longer an issue, but an inner emptiness that gnaws at the heart and whispers, ‘Is this all that there is’, and a search for meaning and purpose is a big deal. As the doughnut has got bigger so has the hole and many are either falling into it or feeling like it. Could it be that the wine of materialism is running low and our real thirst is for spirit?
The faith that was passed down from earlier generations may have been second or third hand but it sustained the majority of those who have gone before us. That was the faith of non-questioning acceptance that people tried to make their own of, but is now fast running out and being replaced with a spirit of questioning non-acceptance. In that questioning space, unless there is some encounter with the Divine, where Spirit is experienced in a very real manner, then life is lived at a superficial level and moral values either become very weak or we enter the moral neutrality zone where much of society tends to operate from.
For so many today the wine of traditional devotions and religious practice has run dry. The age old belief was that if I did my best to live a good life and did my religious duties then my eternal salvation was assured and I would go to Heaven. The vine jar that once overflowed with that belief in now sounding quite hollow and badly in need of a miracle.
In society at present there is a growing crisis of commitment where we do something for as long as we feel like it but when our feelings change then we move on to something else. Particularly in relation to marriage which used to be until death do us part but is fast becoming, until I no longer feel like it, or until someone else comes along who happens to take my fancy. Growing up I always understood that personal growth and commitment were inseparable. If you were committed to something you did it and in the doing you rose above your feelings even if you had got out of bed on the wrong side that particular morning and felt like doing something else. In marriage the heady wine of romance will always run out but you don’t have to run with it. By acting in line with ones commitments and acting in a loving manner the new wine can begin to flow.
Likewise, the wine of enthusiasm, for whatever we undertake, will always run dry but by staying true to our commitments we grow stronger and break the stranglehold that negative emotions can have over us.
We could go so far as to say that life is such that just as our time runs out so the wine will always run dry. What inebriated us at one stage will not have any kick for us in the next. It has to be that way or else we would never go a deeper journey and look for the new wine of Spirit?
Finally in response to the crisis, ‘They have no wine,’ Jesus told them to do something quite specific before they could witness the miracle. If we listen to our innermost selves what specifically might he be asking of us?