A month ago many of us were finalising our preparations to Christmas: adding final touches to make the house spotless, to decorate the Christmas tree, to buy more food ‘just in case’ and to look for last-minute presents; or to pack bags to go away. Whatever we were doing just before Christmas, it had one main purpose: to have a great festive time. After a more or less joyous couple of weeks, the Christmas mood evaporated and was replaced by our boring routine of everyday hustle and bustle. But none of us should be shocked by this return to normality, as it happens every year.
The young couple from today’s gospel came across a real problem, that of having their own wedding spoiled by a shortage of wine. Undoubtedly they had made every effort to lay in a sufficient stock of food and drink prior to the reception, but their predictions turned out to be way too low; perhaps they had invited too many Scots or Poles. Whatever the reason, they were in trouble. More daunting was the fact that they didn’t have a solution. Remember, we look at this story knowing the ending – but at that time they didn’t. For them, Jesus was only one of many wedding guests. The phrase ‘Jesus and his disciples had also been invited’ can suggest that he’d been invited like a disliked auntie: out of duty rather than out of love.
His dialogue with his mother suggests that he was happy to keep his presence low-profile. Actually, there aren’t many things worse than showing off in front of completely plastered people; if you have ever attended a wedding party you’ll know what I mean. Yet Jesus seemingly chose the route to disaster: he ordered the servants to fill the water jugs up with water. For goodness sake, people wanted to drink, not take a bath! The servants diligently fulfilled that apparently pointless order; while sensing the forthcoming inevitable tremendous row, they were carrying heavy buckets of water from the well just because Mary had told them to ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ They must have been totally astounded to realize that the water had turned into wine of an even better quality than the one bought by the newly-weds.
For many of us, our days look very similar: the same repetitive activities, the same daft and dull duties, the same topics discussed a million times over, the same people around us… All these combine to make us seem to be going round in circles, circles leading nowhere in particular, while giving us the impression of wasting our precious time. Sometimes we look enviously at the apparently exciting lives of celebrities basking in glory, fame and wealth. But they also have their dull routines of innumerable rehearsals, interminable sessions, exhausting training and so on. Looking at the final outcomes, we forget their efforts behind the scenes which are not less uninspiring than ours. They have their purposes as we do, and they try to achieve them by doing their best.
We don’t know the exact moment when the water was turned into wine: whether on its way from the well, or when poured into the jugs, or maybe when served up to the steward. That doesn’t actually matter. The servants’ effort finally paid off – and it’s that that really matters. We don’t have to do heroically unusual and exciting things in our lives to achieve something valuable. You must do just two important things: ‘Do whatever Jesus tells you’, and believe that he will turn your own effort into something precious at the best possible moment.