Bringing abundant life Is 62:1-5; Ps 96:1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10; 1 Cor 12:4-11; Jn 2:1-11 Today we step into Ordinary Time in the church’s liturgical calendar. This is the part of the liturgical year that focuses on Jesus’ public ministry. John’s Gospel, always the maverick among the four, marks the beginning of Jesus’ ministry with the story of the wedding feast of Cana. The Bible is no stranger to wedding feasts and celebrations. Ancient peoples, not unlike ourselves, celebrated weddings because they are a moment to savor the beauty of life and they mark a new beginning for those whose lives are now entwined. The first reading from Isaiah speaks of God’s love for Israel by drawing on this tradition. At a moment when Israel and its central city Jerusalem were under threat, the prophet uses wedding imagery to strike a note of hope and joy. No longer will the people be called “forsaken” or “desolate.” Like someone lonely and seemingly overlooked who thought they would never be the object of another’s love, Israel now finds itself the object of God’s special love. Like an exuberant lover, God calls his people “My delight” and their land “Espoused.” The reading concludes by again invoking vivid wedding language: “As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.” The Psalm response from Psalm 96 likewise sounds a note of jubilation: “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing the Lord, all you lands. Sing to the Lord; bless his name.” The account of the wedding feast of Cana is found only in John’s Gospel and the evangelist chose this as the first thing that Jesus does as his ministry unfolds in Galilee. It will be, as the Evangelist notes, the “beginning of his signs” that reveal the “glory” of Jesus. John’s Gospel uniquely uses the term signs for the miracles of Jesus. The idea is that through these visible acts of Jesus — healing, forgiving, reconciling — we glimpse the very glory of God. The conviction that Jesus, the Incarnate Word, reveals the true face of God is a fundamental assertion of John’s Gospel. Pope Francis captured well this Johannine motif when he spoke of Jesus as “the human face of the Father’s mercy.” So here at the outset of Jesus’ mission we have a wedding feast where the wine flows and where Jesus, his mother and his disciples join in. It is a celebration of human love and vitality, the very gift of life that God gives, and Jesus renews. But, as is often the case in wedding celebrations, some unexpected things happen. At Cana the wine runs out and the mother of Jesus urges him to intervene: “They have no wine.” He ultimately does so, transforming water into vast amounts (180 gallons) of choice wine. Such a glorious transformation — water into wine — is, without doubt, a sign of the glorious abundance and vital joy that Jesus can bring. Later in John’s Gospel Jesus will declare: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). But there is also a sober note. Jesus hesitates because his “hour has not yet come.” In Johannine language the hour of Jesus refers to his death on the cross — the ultimate and paradoxical sign of his mission to reveal God’s love for the world. The mother of Jesus would be present there, too. But for now, at Cana in Galilee, there was a pressing human need and Jesus, at his mother’s prompting, would offer this sign of God’s love. The feast would go on and the hosts and the bride and groom would not be embarrassed. What does this first sign of Jesus convey? God’s embrace of us — our hopes, our beginnings, our sexuality, our relationships, our search for joy and feasting and love. The sacredness of marriage and family underscored by the presence of Jesus, his mother and his followers. The true mission of Jesus to bring us abundant life, even to the point of laying down his own life for us at his hour.