The Wedding at Cana
Father Richard Sorfleet
Pastor, Saint John the Evangelist Eucharistic Catholic Mission, Renfrew ON
The traditional Sunday gospel reading from John 2: 1- 11 for Epiphany 2 recounts the attendance of Christ and his Mother along with his disciples at a wedding two days after the calling of the apostle Philip in Cana 9 miles N of Nazareth.
We do not know the identity of the bride and groom. We must assume it to be a rather large wedding as part way through the wine had run out. Given the number of the wedding party and the invited guests, John's gospel gives no interactions other than those between Jesus and his Mother to say it was not his concern and his hour has not yet come, and that of Mary to the servants waiting on the wedding feast, to do whatever he instructed them to do.
The gospel focus is behind the scenes, not as with the center of a wedding's attention, the bride and groom and in this case with Jesus as the honored guest.
To clarify JN 2: 4 'My hour has not yet come.' ESV does not mean the the time to shiow miracles but the use in John's gospel of the word hour in reference to his crucifixion where his saving work is accomplished in his atoning death.
The servants' work occupied with catering to the wedding is at the back of the room or out of sight of the guests and so is Jesus' miracle of changing the large jars of water into wine quietly and unseen. The first realization is that of the chief steward when tasting the latest supply brought forward and even then he thinks it is the case of saving the best till last. Unlike today's catered weddings where one orders the food and the company does the rest. The groom in Cana had supplied the food and drink.
This was the first sign which attests to Jesus as the Messiah; not as many had thought he would be a leader to free Israel from Roman rule, but in the changing of ordinary water into an extraordinary vintage of wine at a wedding involving ordinary people.
Let us turn back to the behind the scenes to the servants busy with their tasks who had witnessed the miracle and knew what had happened. We sense a well-organized service under the direction of competent and careful supervision, with attention to detail. There appears no strife between owner [in this case the bridegroom and his family] and local management [the steward] or the employees [the servants]. In all a successful and happy workplace.
This wedding allows us to look at the Church's teachings on labor relations.
Everyone should be able to draw from work the means of providing for his life and that of his family, and of serving the human community RCat 2428
The wedding catering business in Cana undoubtedly employed several people as the word servany is pluralized and must have been from the local area given the lack of modern transport. It certainly provided a service to the local community in both providing jobs and fulfilling a community need.
Everyone has the right of economic initiative; everyone should make legitimate use of his talents to contribute to the abundance that will benefit all and to harvest the just fruits of his labor. RCat 2429
The steward's attention to detail as shown in his tasting the latest wine demonstrates talent and assurance of benefit. The guests enjoy the fruits of the groom's labor as it is he who would pay the bill and that money in turn provide wages for the servants.
Economic activity, especially the activity of a market economy, cannot be conducted in an institutional, juridical, or political vacuum. On the contrary, it presupposes sure guarantees of individual freedom and private property, as well as a stable currency and efficient public services. Hence the principal task of the state is to guarantee this security, so that those who work and produce can enjoy the fruits of their labors and thus feel encouraged to work efficiently and honestly.... Another task of the state is that of overseeing and directing the exercise of human rights in the economic sector. However, primary responsibility in this area belongs not to the state but to individuals and to the various groups and associations which make up society. Rcat 2431
For all its faults the Pax Romana provided 1stC Palestine with a stable and secure society where ordinary people could go about their business and the rhythm of life such as a wedding in Cana could procede.
And we must not forget that this stability and security allows the Christian message in the latter part of the century to spread by the movement of people and written word across the Empire.
A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice. In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account. "Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good. RCat 2434
We do not know the amount the servants were paid at the end of the wedding. On the basis of MT 20: 2 perhaps they received one denarius as a typical day's pay. The key phrase in 2434 is Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family.
This brings us to our own social issue of today's equivalent of what constitutes that 1 denarius a day where in our society pay is measured by the hour, not by the day. In its effort to ensure dignified livelihoods the Ontario government raised the minimum wage to $14.00/hr. franchisees of one popular coffee shop chain immediately reacted by cutting hours and benefits. Often these decisions were simply posted on the doors.
From the scene of busy wedding servants in Cana to unhappy and angry employees in even less of a position to provide for themselves and their families, no clearer and un-Christian comparison could be made.
Moreover, when analyzed, the figures used by the franchisees' to justify their position revealed dis-information and blatant false claims.
The harvest of the just fruits of one's labor is more than a jelly-filled donut. The number of persons surviving on minimm wage in the province of appalling and the social consequences affect us all. And when targeting the working poor over $2.40, outrageous couched in claims of immediate business bankrupcies and economic apocalyses in Ontario.
The Church's role to speak up and to speak out on such social issues is made clear in its catechism and teach the gospel message to those who have forgotten to listen and to those who care not to hear, and to teach with its authority.
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.. JN 2: 1 ESV
The gospel reading concludes with
And his disciples believed in him JN 2: 11
It is our belief in the Good News with its message which opens hearts and transforms lives.
in a renewed creation..
an eternal and universal kingdom
a kingdom of truth and life,
a kingdom of holiness and grace,
a kingdom of justice, love and peace. ]from the preface of Christ the King.]
and one where human value and worth are not seen in terms of exploitations and in $14.00/hr minimums but in Gospel faith, hope and love
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