The True Bridegroom Revealed


In the village culture of Palestine in Jesus’ day it was the responsibility of the bridegroom to provide wine at a wedding. To have the wine run out before the end of the celebration would be a grave embarrassment both to him and his family, a failure  remembered for generations.

Doubtless, it was concern on this score that prompted the Mother of Jesus to draw the problem to her Son’s attention. His initial hesitation to act reflects a tendency appearing elsewhere in the Fourth Gospel (see 7:3-6; 11: 3-6). Jesus does not respond immediately to human prompting. He is following a divine agenda set by the Father.

Eventually, Jesus does remedy the situation, providing not only wine in abundance but ‘the best wine, keep till last’. His miraculous provision of ordinary wine the functions as a ‘sign’ disclosing a deeper reality: namely, that he is true Bridegroom at this  wedding, fulfilling God’s promise, as recorded in today’s First Reading, to become the Bridegroom of Israel forever (Isaiah 62:2-4; see also Hos 2: 14-16; Isa 54:4-8; Jer 2:2, John 3:29; etc.).

This is what the evangelist is referring to when he states, that Jesus ‘let his glory be seen at Cana in Galilee’. He revealed himself to be ‘the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth’ (1:14).

The Catholic tradition, in its sacramental understanding of marriage, has long found in Jesus’ presence at this simple village wedding in Galilee a divine pledge to be presents at all weddings and to enrich all marriages with the superabundant and unfailing ‘wine’ of God’s love.

Brendan Byrne, SJ