Water to wine: Jesus ushers in new covenant of joy, pope says

Pope Francis greets migrants during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican June 8. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets migrants during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 8. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Jesus’ first miracle of changing water into wine expresses his invitation to share in the joy of the new covenant and reminds people to do as he commands, Pope Francis said.

The miracle also shows how he transformed the law of Moses — represented by water destined for ritual purification — into the joy of the Gospel, which is represented by wine, he said.

“A feast needs to have wine” as an integral part of shared celebration, the pope said June 8 during his weekly general audience.

“Imagine ending a wedding reception drinking tea! It would be embarrassing,” he said, as a way to emphasize why Mary was so worried when the wine was running out at the wedding in Cana.

“Water is needed for life, but wine expresses the abundance of a banquet and the joy of a feast,” he said.

After a series of audience talks dedicated to selected parables in the Gospel, the pope said the day’s catechesis would look at the first of Jesus’ miracles.

“The wedding at Cana is much more than a simple account of Jesus’ first miracle,” the pope told those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

The story sheds the first light on the “whole mystery of Christ” — who he really is and why he came — as well as helping open “the hearts of the disciples to the faith,” he said.

The miracles, or what John the Evangelist calls “signs,” were never meant to astonish people, but to “reveal the father’s love,” the pope said.

Jesus performing his first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana is greatly significant, the pope said. “Jesus manifests himself as the bridegroom of the people of God” and reveals the nature and depth of this relationship: “It is a new covenant of love.”

“It’s like the story of two people in love,” he said. God and humanity seek each other out, they meet, they celebrate and they love each other.

“The church is Jesus’ family into which he pours his love. It is this love that the church safeguards and wants to offer everyone.” Living a Christian life is the response to God’s love, he added.

Those Jesus calls to follow him are united to him as a community, as a family, Pope Francis said, and they are all invited to a feast.

The miracle, he said, also requires the servants to do exactly as Jesus tells them.

In fact, the pope said, the last words the Gospel writers attribute to Mary are, “Do whatever he tells you,” leaving her command as a kind of legacy she hands down to all of humanity for all time.

At the feast, he said, Jesus stipulates a whole new covenant for “the servants of the Lord,” that is, for the church, and a new mission: “Do whatever he tells you.”

“Serving the Lord means listening to and putting into practice his word,” the pope said; it is the guide for a Christian life.

“In Cana, Jesus’ disciples become his family and the faith of the church is born. All of us are invited to that wedding feast so that the new wine will no longer run short.”

Before beginning his catechesis, the pope honored a group of couples in St. Peter’s Square who were celebrating 50 years of marriage. “Now that is the good wine” for families, he said.

He thanked the couples for their “beautiful witness,” which, he said, was something newlyweds and young people today “must learn.”

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