In today’s Mass we recall the miracle at the marriage feast of Cana when Our Lord turned water into wine. It was the first of Our Lord’s many miracles and it served to introduce us to his public ministry. And already we see how Our Lord reveals his glory: his word is all-powerful because it is so gentle and full of kindness. That same power is available to us to transform evil into good in our lives if only we will repent and change our lives.
One of the films I like to watch, from time to time, is that very funny film Four Weddings and a Funeral which apparently, is one of the most successful and popular British films ever to be seen on the silver screen. It’s a comedy-drama, telling the story of a group of friends in search of love. The love of friendship is already there among them, but their individual journeys in search of a future husband or wife present many of them with real problems. Finding the right person, being the right person, and making that frightening leap of commitment, is not as easy as it seems. And I’m sure those of us who are celibate breathe a sigh of relief that we have don’t have to go through that often traumatic experience.
In the course of many comic encounters and hilarious episodes, as the group of friends attends no less than four weddings, there are some poignant moments of solitude, sadness and wistfulness, as the characters reflect on unrequited love, missed opportunities and the fear of being left on the shelf. At the one funeral which all these friends attend, there is the powerful recital of WH Auden’s poem about death, and the utter devastation that it brings. To lose a husband or wife is a paralysing experience, and Auden’s words describe it so well.
And yet the film is light-hearted and full of fun and laughter; and yet, all the time, there runs through it this urgency about love and the need to find it. In that urgency there is the fear of being left out of life, the fear of being desperately lonely, the fear of being abandoned and forsaken. Nobody wants that to happen. We all want to be part of life. We all want to be full participants in the land of the living.
It is in this spirit that the prophet Isaiah speaks to us today. The devastated city of Jerusalem, once an abandoned ruin, is inhabited again, and the days of sorrow are left behind. In their place will come a time of rejoicing. A wedding dress will take the place of funeral robes. The land shall no more be called “forsaken” or “abandoned”. Instead it is time for a party. The building up of the city, the restoration of the people, the signs of life and prosperity, all indicate the blessings of God. Life has returned to a broken place.
This prophecy for Jerusalem, this restoration of life and the removal of fear, is a message for all humanity. God’s love will overcome all evil things. Like a bridegroom marrying his bride, this is how God delights in us. This delight, this love, is communicated to us most of all in the person of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
At a simple wedding in Cana, Our Lord reveals his first sign to the world of who he is. His glory as God’s Son is seen in his transforming water into wine. His disciples saw this and they believed in him. They now began to see and understand that the eternal Word became flesh and lived among us. This truth, that God is with us, isn’t easily absorbed and fully understood by any of us. It took the disciples all of three years and many doubts and confusions, and the devastation of the Cross of Calvary, before they fully grasped the reality of Jesus. And it’s nothing strange if we suffer the same trials and difficulties in the course of our journey through life.
The experience of feeling abandoned and alone comes to us all, whether we are married, single or a consecrated celibate. The fear of missing out on life’s joys is a real trial. Anxiety over our safety and happiness in this world is a common affliction. This is where the faith of the Church comes to our aid.
The Lord who turned water into wine also turns wine into his Precious Blood. The Lord who was done to death is risen again, for us and for our salvation. United in this risen Lord we, his followers, put all our gifts and talents to work in this world. Through preaching and teaching and pastoral care, we come to the aid of one another in our journey through life. The Holy Spirit spreads God’s gifts among all, so that all may contribute to the welfare of all. We see this happening in a very realistic and practical way right now as individuals, churches, charities and nations come to the aid of migrants and refugees. It’s such a shame we only see this outpouring of compassion and generosity during times of social upheaval, war and natural disaster. If only the nations of the world put their collective minds to it, then human poverty, suffering, war and disease could so easily become a thing of the past.
As individuals we don’t, as yet, have the means to achieve this, and I’m sure we all do what we can to help the aid agencies cope with human tragedy whenever and wherever it takes place. But more than doling out cash, it is our faith which helps to lift the spirits of those who suffer. Our hope gives inspiration to those who are weary of life. And most of all, our love brings warmth to people and removes the fears that paralyse the human spirit. By God’s grace, we can turn the water of distress into the wine of true joy. And this is something we cannot keep silent about.
May we do what we can to raise the spirits of those in need, and spread the light of God’s love in this dark and confusing world.