Homily for Jan. 16, II Sunday after Epiphany (for Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite)
Just a few days ago, we celebrated the Baptism of the Lord (on January 13 according to the old calendar), which marked the beginning of Jesus’ public life. Today we remember His first public miracle, the changing of water to wine at the wedding in Cana. Generally, when people can choose how to make a public debut, they aim to set the tone of what they want their public career to be. Although Jesus seems to resist performing this miracle at first, nothing happens by mistake in God’s plan. It is no accident that His first miracle takes this form. What can we learn from it?
First of all, it is a Marian miracle. Mary is our caring mother, attentive to the needs of her children. Her presence and intercession are subtle yet powerful. She is there at all the key moments of Jesus’ life: she is necessarily present for His conception and birth; she is there for His first public miracle; and she is there for His ultimate sacrifice on the Cross (and, although it is not mentioned specifically, she must still have been in Jerusalem with St John for the resurrection). She is also praying with the Apostles at Pentecost. God wanted us to know that we can always count on her.
Secondly, it is a miracle with Eucharistic implications. Jesus shows that He has power over the elements of the material world, and specifically over water and wine. His disciples believed in Him and recognized His divine presence because of the presence of the wine, much like the disciples on the road to Emmaus would recognize Him when He celebrated the Eucharist with them. The Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the life of the Church, and the Lord wants to prepare that message right from the start.
It is a miracle with profoundly scriptural and messianic overtones. Wine appears throughout the Old Testament as a source of strength and joy. The presence of God’s blessing on the people is often compared to a banquet with choice wines and succulent food. Jesus Himself uses the image of a marriage banquet to describe heaven, and calls Himself the bridegroom, just as God often did in the Old Testament describing His relationship with His Chosen People. The miraculous wine of Cana is the aperitif for the banquet of grace that Jesus wins for us with His death and resurrection.
Like all of Jesus’ miracles, it is profoundly selfless. The Lord never uses His power to make His own life easier; right from the start, His goal is to bring joy, hope and salvation to others. He came “to serve, not to be served.” And that is the way He wants to teach us to use our gifts as well, as St Paul explains in today’s reading from his Epistle to the Romans.
May the Eucharist which we receive today strengthen our faith in the love and power of our Savior, fill us with the true joy of God’s presence, draw us closer to Mary our mother, and teach us to be more generous with each other. May God reveal His glory in our holiness, so that more and more people may come to believe in Him and share some day in the heavenly banquet of the Lamb.