In John’s Gospel the miracles performed by Jesus are called signs. A sign is usually not an end in itself. What is more important is the reality to which a sign points. The signs done by Jesus point forward to the “hour” of Jesus and to the divine glory made manifest in him as both revealer and revelation of God.
Jesus’ changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana is described as “the beginning of his signs.” It is the first in the series of seven signs by which Jesus manifests his power and glory during his public ministry. The key to the Cana episode and to all of Jesus’ signs is his statement to his mother that “my hour has not yet come.” The “hour” of Jesus includes his passion, death, resurrection and exaltation taken as one great event. In this “lifting up” of Jesus, his glory as God’s Son is definitively revealed. The “signs” are previews or anticipations of the fullness of his glory. The sign at Cana points forward to Jesus’ “hour” on the cross and the banquet in God’s kingdom.
The biblical background of the Cana episode is best sought in texts about Wisdom’s banquet (Prov 9:2, 5) and images of abundant wine in the last days (Isa 25:6; Jer 31:12; Amos 9:13-14 and elsewhere). Today’s reading from Isaiah 62 looks for signs of Israel’s full restoration as God’s people after the return from exile and describes God’s fidelity to his people in terms of a husband’s fidelity to his wife.
Although Jesus’ response to his mother (“Woman, how does your concern affect me?”) may sound formal and even cold, she shows faith (“Do whatever he tells you”) that her son will do what is needed to save the honor of the newlyweds and their families. Thus she deserves to be revered as the mother of all believers in Jesus (see John 19:26-27). And Jesus acts in response to his mother’s faith in him.
The reading from 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us that each of us can and should be a sign of God’s power and glory. The Corinthian Christians were enthusiastic and unruly. They seem to have been especially fond of exotic spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues. Paul, however, who had founded the church at Corinth, insists that the source of every spiritual gift is the Holy Spirit. In other words, all the charisms are really signs of the Holy Spirit’s activity and point to the glory of Jesus and his heavenly Father. Rather than being occasions for pride and boasting, they should be exercised for the good of others and for bearing witness to God’s power and glory.
The challenge for us of Jesus’ first sign at Cana and of Paul’s advice to the Corinthians is to become more sensitive to the many signs of God’s power and glory around us, to open our eyes and hearts to perceive them as coming from God and to give glory to God for them.