Friends, in today’s Gospel people ask Jesus why he doesn’t encourage fasting among his followers. Jesus’ answer is wonderful: “How can the guests at a wedding fast while the groom is still with them?” (That’s a typically Jewish style, by the way: answering a question with another question.)
This great image of the wedding feast comes up frequently in the New Testament, most obviously in the wedding feast at Cana narrative. And it is echoed in the Tradition. Jesus is the wedding of heaven and earth, the marriage of divinity and humanity; he is the bridegroom and the Church is the bride. In him, the most intimate union is achieved between God and the world.
Could you imagine people fasting at a wedding banquet? Could you imagine going into an elegant room with your fellow guests and being served bread and water? It would be ridiculous! So says Jesus: “As long as the groom is with them, how could they fast?” The mark of the Christian dispensation is joy. Exuberance. Delight. God and the world have come together. What could be better news?
Friends, in today’s Gospel we read about the wedding at Cana. Jesus’ mother is the first to speak, as John tells the story: “They have no wine.” On the surface level, she is indeed commenting on a social disaster, running out of wine at a party, and she is asking Jesus to do something to make things better.
But let’s go deeper. Wine, in the Scriptures, is a symbol of the exuberance and intoxication of the divine life. When God is in us, we are lifted up, rendered joyful, transfigured. Therefore, when Mary says, “They have no more wine,” she is speaking of all of Israel and indeed all of the human race. They have run out of the exuberance and joyfulness that comes from union with God.
And this is precisely why Jesus calls her “woman.” We can be easily misled into thinking that he was being curt or disrespectful. But he was addressing her with the title of Eve, the mother of all the living. Mary is the representative here of suffering humanity, complaining to God that the joy of life has run out.