Greetings, SBT Readers!
The problem with celebrating the birthday of a great figure such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is that the celebration can overshadow the meaning of that person's life. Take Christmas, for example. Of the millions of people who recently exchanged gifts, decorated their homes, sent out Christmas cards or attended Christmas parties, how many would actually identify as "Christian" or even be familiar with Jesus' core teachings? Similarly, of all those federal employees, private employees and students who get a day off in honor of Dr. King's birthday, how many appreciate all that he contributed to the Civil Rights Movement? How many know that his belief in non-violent civil disobedience was shaped both by his Christian faith and by the non-violent activism of Mahatma Gandhi (which, in turn, was influenced by the gospels)? Or that the vision he articulated in his "I Have a Dream" speech (1963) was of a vision for an America in which all people could live in harmony? How many are aware of the hate mail and death threats that he and his fellow activists received on account of their leadership? That the FBI labeled this speech as "demagogic" and marked Dr. King as "the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security"?
This Monday is a national holiday, but it is more than a day for relaxation. Rather, we need to remember the ultimate price that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. paid for his activism, as well as the heroism of all those who worked towards establishing a foundation of freedom and equality. Many of those great leaders -- Bayard Rustin, Rosa Parks, and John Lewis, for example-- are no longer with us, but the best way we can honor them is to remember our debt of gratitude and safeguard their legacy.
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told the servers,
“Fill the jars with water.”
So they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them,
“Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”
So they did as he said. When the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from— although the servers who had drawn the water knew —, the headwaiter said to the bridegroom,
“Everyone serves the good wine first,
and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one;
but you have kept the good wine until now.”
There is so much that is fascinating about the narrative of The Wedding Feast of Cana. In the first place, there is the context. The story occurs right after John the Baptist testifies that Jesus is the Son of God (Jn 1:34) and after Jesus calls his first disciples, promising them great signs (Jn 1:50-51). The stage is set, then, for something extraordinary.
Then there is the cast of characters. It is interesting to find Jesus and his newly-called disciples at the same wedding that his mother is attending. The dialogue between mother and son is surprising: Mary informs Jesus that the wine has run out and Jesus' response is pretty much to say, "So what?" His words, "My hour has not yet come" suggest that he is aware of his own mission but is not yet ready to take the inaugural plunge. Despite this, Mary instructs the servers to follow any of Jesus' instructions. For her, the hour is NOW because there is a need-- having run out of wine, the newly-weds are on the verge of public embarrassment. As for the servers, all we know is that they follow Jesus' instructions, even though this means topping up the six stone jars with gallons of water. What is their water source? we might wonder. The village well? Filling the jars is no small undertaking!
Then comes the pivotal moment when Jesus tells the servers to draw some water and present it to the head waiter. Interestingly, he doesn't test the water himself but allows the head waiter to verify the transformation that has just occurred. This waiter, then, fulfills the role of credible witness, not only affirming that the water jars are now filled with wine, but that this wine is of superior quality. As promised before the wedding feast, Jesus reveals his glory (Jn 2:11) and inaugurates his ministry; as for Peter, Andrew, Philip, Nathanael and any other disciples who happen to be present, their belief is strengthened.
Symbolically speaking, it is the six stone water jars that are the most interesting. We know that they are large and that they are used for ceremonial purposes -- most likely for hand washing before eating bread or after a meal. This water is not for drinking then, but for purposes of purification. In the presence of Jesus, plain, every day water becomes an abundant supply of the finest wine. What was in short supply now overflows and bride and groom can dance with their guests, celebrating with carefree abandon. May the water of our lives turn to wine that we, too, may enter the dance of love, inebriated by the Presence of the Beloved...