Sunday: Cana and Christ’s Beginnings

As the new year — and ordinary time — begins in earnest (Sunday is the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C), the liturgy gives us a month of beginnings.

Christmas is over; soon will come Lent and sacrifice. But in between, throughout January, the Church draws our attention to the ways Christ began his public ministry.

There are many ways to count beginnings in life: Birth, baptism, first steps or first words? First date, “in a relationship,” getting engaged or getting married? Getting hired, first day or first paycheck?

Christ’s public ministry has many beginnings too. In each case, Christ’s way of beginning includes a shadow of the cross.

At the Epiphany, Jesus’ glory is revealed to the magi, but is threatened by Herod who wants to kill him. His family flees to Egypt. At the Baptism, a voice from heaven proclaims his greatness and the Holy Spirit descends on him — only to drive him into a confrontation with the devil in the desert. Later this month, Jesus will dramatically read about the messiah in his hometown synagogue and say, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your midst.” The people will respond by trying to kill him.

Today’s “beginning” is the Wedding Feast at Cana. This isn’t just a story about turning water into wine for the sake of a wedding. The key line comes at the end of the story: “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.”

It is significant that the great public revelation about who Jesus is starts with Mary.

Mary is the center of the scene. She initiates his miracle with four words to him: “They have no wine.”

Christ’s response —“My hour has not yet come” — is a reference to the fact, seemingly well known to both mother and son, that to reveal his glory will lead to “his hour”  — his death.

Her reply is to tell the servants five words —“Do whatever he tells you” — which spiritual writers say is the counsel she gives to all at all times.

Here is true femininity. She is not a passive voiceless observer — she uses the force of her personality to call her son to action and the servants along with him, not by being demanding but by pointing them to others.

Jesus, of course, responds by working a miracle that is guaranteed to be talked about — so much so that “turning water into wine” is a phrase used to this day by people who are not churchgoers.

And, as with the Epiphany and the baptism and the prophecy of the messiah, trouble follows. Jesus must now begin the ministry that he will be killed for.

At each stage, the story is the same: A glorious beginning, followed by trouble. But we know how the story ultimately ends, in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and the assumption and coronation of his mother.

We can be confident, if we follow Jesus, that the decision will bring trouble into our life — and grace, and joy, and new life in Christ, forever, we hope, in heaven.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.