For Reflection: this week Benjamin reflects on the little signs of hope God reveals in the world around us.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Storytelling is full of signposts.
If we hear that a story happened “Once upon a time” we immediately know the type and form of story we are going to be told. It will be magical and phantastical. It may be just tiny bit scarier than we’d planned. But this will be worth it because we know that when stories begin “Once upon a time” they always end “happily ever after”.
These signposts in storytelling are not the sole preserve of children’s stories. Through all of human history signposts, tropes, patterns have been used to help us understand what kind of story we are listening to, and how we then relate to and fit into that story. The stories of the bible are no different.
Through the pages of the Old Testament we hear the prophetic will of God spoken through the mouths of Isaiah and Jeremiah and others. In these we hear of God’s displeasure, of God’s grief, but most of all God’s faithfulness with his people. However, through all these prophetic sayings when we hear them close with the words “…says the Lord” we know that this carries a deeper and power powerful meaning. When we hear this trope we know to listen even more intently.
Similarly, if we hear that a something happens “In those days…” we are meant to listen up. It was “In those days…” that John the Baptist appears in the wilderness. In those days Mary sets out to see Elizabeth. When the bible speaks of ‘Those days’, it means the days of the Lord, the days of the glory of God.
So when we hear our Gospel reading – the famous and much-loved story of the wedding feast at Cana – we can all too easily miss another of these signposts. The story begins:
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee
This is not an incidental piece of information this is a signpost for us to prick up our ears and hear. What we are about to hear about happened “on the third day”. What we are about to hear Jesus do prefigures and points to that greater things that happened “on the third day”. As we are told at the end of the reading:
Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory.
This sign, this miracle, happened “on the third day” because that is the time, the frame through which God reveals his glory. When we hear that Jesus first revealed his glory “on the third day” we are being prepared to recognise that moment, early on the third day, when God reveals the fullness of this glory in the empty tomb and Easter garden of the resurrection.
There is though something more than simply storytelling happening with this signpost. In these words, John the Evangelist is drawing us into the patterns and shapes of God’s redeeming love. The Eucharistic Prayer used in Epiphany remembers that in God’s love our:
Poverty is turned to riches [our] sorrow into joy.
“On the third Day” we are invited into that pattern and shape of God’s redeeming love. In the story of the Wedding Feast this comes, “on the third day” when Jesus saved the shame of the host of the feast and transformed that moment of humiliation into the joy of water turned into the finest wine.
In the journey of Holy Week, we discover “on the third day” that the cross was not that final moment of disgrace, but the place where God revealed his glory, the glory of a Father’s only son full of grace and truth, on the third day in empty tomb and new life and new creation of Easter.
And that love flows forwards into our reality. As we hear this signpost this morning, we are not only shown the shape of the story to come, but we are also drawn into the pattern and time of God’s love. In the Resurrection the glory of God’s love ripples through creation. As we hear these words today we are invited not just to remember that wedding party, or even the first Easter morning. In these words we are invited to seek those times, those moment, those “third days” when our “poverty is turned to riches and our sorrow into joy.”
Over the last few weeks as I have been talking to people it is clear that this lockdown somehow feels harder than the others. It’s not hard to see why. The threat of the new variant, the rise in the daily reported death, the sheer length of time we’ve been living with restriction and limitation. And to cap it all its January with only February to look forward to.
This is for many a time of poverty and sorrow. A time when our resources and energy is low. But it is also a time when we need to strain our ears and hear the echoes of those words of invitation “on the third day”, and through them be drawn into the time of God’s redeeming love they tell us.
So this last week, even amidst all the darkness of this time, it was as if it was:
“On the third day” that I watched with my daughters as the daughter of immigrants was sworn into the second most powerful job in the world.
It was “On the third day” that I found the first snow drops peeking through the mud and mist as I took the dog for an early morning walk.
It was “On the third day” that I heard that members of my family received they vaccination.
As we face the struggle of this time we should listen for those moment when God is transforming our poverty and sorrow of our present moment by the richness of his grace. Where, we might ask ourselves, if God acting “on the third day” in our lives, in our world, and in our experience? So that as we hear those words of invitation we might, like those guests at the wedding feast at Cana, find the sorrow and darkness of our time transformed by the richness of God’s grace.
Questions for reflection
- What have you found a particular struggle in the lockdown?
- Have you seen signs of hope appearing “on the third day”?
- What are those signs of hope pointing towards for you?