January 2013 - Vol. 65

The Miracle at Cana
Wine in Abundance
By Jeanne Kun
This first miracle, in appearance the least “spiritual” of all, prepared them for what was to come, [and] introduced them to the unimaginable mystery.
– François Mauriac, Life of Jesus
At the wedding feast in Cana we catch a glimpse of Jesus’ kindness, the warmth of his personality, and his enjoyment of a good party. “I cannot imagine Jesus sitting alone with a serious face,” wrote Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, in Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John. “Instead, I see him a part of the celebration, singing with everybody else, rejoicing in the festivity, profoundly happy to celebrate with people he knows and loves. . . . Jesus is so beautifully human!” Yet at this feast much more than Jesus’ humanity and empathy was made evident – the divine glory of Jesus was manifested at Cana.

Cana isn’t far from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, so it’s likely that the wedding Jesus and Mary attended was that of a close relative or neighbor. To run out of wine would have been quite an embarrassment for the newlyweds, since Middle Eastern hospitality demands that hosts care for their guests graciously. So, at his mother’s discreet request – the only record in Scripture of Mary’s asking her son to fill a need – Jesus remedied the awkward situation.

Mary simply told Jesus, “They have no wine” (John 2:3) – and initially he replied that his “hour” had not yet come (2:4). Mary’s words, however, implied more than the expectation that her son would do a favor for the bride and groom. She was prompting him to do something out of the ordinary (for surely she didn’t merely think that Jesus would send his disciples to buy more wine). And, in this way, Mary was releasing Jesus from his responsibilities at home and suggesting that he now take up his divine work. Ultimately, when Jesus acted at his mother’s urging and began to reveal himself by his action at Cana, he signaled that the fulfillment of his hour—that is, Jesus’ redemptive mission, his passion and death, his resurrection and ascension in glory (7:30; 8:20; 12:27; 16:32; 17:1) – was drawing near.

“Fill the jars with water. . . . Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward” (John 2:7-8). With these simple instructions to the waiters, Jesus changed 120 gallons of ordinary water into fine wine. This miraculous transformation was effected by his creative power and divine authority. The abundant quantity of wine highlights the greatness of the miracle as well as the generosity of God.

An abundance of wine is one of the dominant images that characterized the visions of the messianic era foretold by the ancient prophets of Israel (Isaiah 25:6; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13-14;). And the wedding feast mirrors the Old Testament image of marriage as an expression of God’s relationship to Israel (Isaiah 54:5-6; 62:4-5; Hosea 2:19-20). In the New Testament, this messianic age is likened to a wedding banquet (Matthew 22:1-14; Revelation 19:9). When Jesus changed the water held in jars used for Jewish ritual purification (John 2:6) into wine, he was hinting that the messianic age had now arrived. With this “new wine” (Luke 5:33-39), a new era had begun – an era in which Jesus himself is the bridegroom (John 3:29). For, by providing wine in plenty at a marriage feast – a responsibility of the bridegroom – he pointed to his identity as divine bridegroom and Messiah and to the new covenant he was to accomplish by his life and death.

John called this miracle of Jesus a “sign” (John 2:11) – the first among many that the Evangelist recorded in his gospel. The mighty work that Jesus did in Cana was not simply an extraordinary act done out of kindness and compassion. It was a sign that revealed Jesus’ glory and unveiled God’s power and love actively working through him – and a sign that invited all who witnessed it to faith in the one whom God sent to fulfill his plan of salvation.

In the Spotlight

Jewish Wedding Customs

In Jesus’ day, it was customary in Palestine for the bridegroom and his friends to carry the bride in a chair from her parents’ house to the groom’s house in a torchlit procession. There the couplewho had already been pledged to one another at their betrothalconcluded the marriage ceremony.

Nuptial festivities followed, which lasted from three to eight days and included singing, dancing, and feasting (Genesis 29:27; Judges 14:10, 12, 17; Job 9:12; 10:1).
Relatives and friendseven townspeople and people passing throughcame to greet the bride and groom and join in their joy. Flowing wine added to the celebratory atmosphere and cheered the hearts of the guests. In fact, the Aramaic word used to describe a wedding feast is mistita, which has the same root as the word “drink” and literally means “drink-festival.”

Hospitality is highly esteemed in the culture of the Middle East, so to fail in one’s duties as a gracious and generous host leaves a blot on the family’s reputation. In first-century Palestine, a bridegroom and his family could even have been heavily fined or taken to court for not providing sufficiently for their guests. Thus, by miraculously providing wine in abundance when it had run out at the wedding in Cana, Jesus saved the newlyweds from social embarrassment and from the displeasure of their guests and prevented a disruption of the festivities.

In the Spotlight

The Hour of Jesus’ Glorification

The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the Hour of Jesus’ glorification. It makes manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father’s kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ. (1335)

The Church attaches great importance to Jesus’ presence at the wedding at Cana. She sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ’s presence. (1613)

The Gospel reveals to us how Mary prays and intercedes in faith. At Cana, the mother of Jesus asks her son for the needs of a wedding feast; this is the sign of another feastthat of the wedding of the Lamb where he gives his body and blood at the request of the Church, his Bride. (2618)

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church

In the Spotlight

God's Abundant Provision

Marguerite d’Youville founded the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, commonly known as the Grey Nuns, after she was widowed. During the eighteenth-century colonization of French Canada and the hardships of the French and Indian War (1754–1763) she and her sisters ran a hospital for the sick and infirm as well as an orphanage for abandoned babies. Blessed John XXIII called her the Mother of Universal Charity. St. Marguerite d’Youville was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1990.

Once, after checking her accounts, Mother d’Youville discovered that she had only one small silver coin left. At that moment, a poor woman came to claim her payment for nursing a baby in their care—a payment of the exact amount of the coin. Marguerite reached into her pocket, only to find a whole handful of coins! Amazed, she reached into her other pocket and brought out yet another handful! At another time, when the sisters and their patients were close to starving, six barrels of flour inexplicably “appeared” in their dining room. The Eternal Father never failed to care for his daughters and for the poor they served.

– In the Land I Have Shown You: The Stories 
of 16 Saints and Christian Heroes of North America

Excerpt from Mighty in Power: The Miracles of Jesus, The Word Among Us Press, Copyright © 2006. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Jeanne Kun is President of Bethany Association and a senior woman leader in the Word of Life Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. 

The Scene
John 2:1-12

1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6Now standing there were six stone jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When 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 10and 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.” 

11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. 12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days.

Coptic Icon of Miracle at Cana


1. John wrote that the wedding in Cana occurred “on the third day” (John 2:1), that is, three days after Jesus’ encounter with Nathanael (1:43-51). What significance do you see in this chronology? What other events in Scripture involve a time framework of three days?

2. Why, in your opinion, did Jesus perform this miracle? Note the reasons that are stated in the text as well as those that seem to be hinted at or implied. What impact do you think this miracle had on the various people who witnessed it?

3. What do Mary’s presence, words, and actions at the wedding at Cana and afterward at Capernaum indicate to you about her? About her relationship with her son?

4. Is faith evident in this scene? If so, in what ways? Whose faith? What do the results of the servants’ actions suggest about the importance of obedience?

5. How is the miracle at Cana a sign of the coming kingdom of God? What is its value as a sign? (Note that six other “signs” are recounted in the Gospel of John: the healing of the official’s son – 4:46-54, the healing of the paralyzed man – 5:2-9, the multiplication of the loaves – 6:1-14, the healing of the blind man – 9:1-41, and the raising of Lazarus – 11:1-44.)


1. Mary brought the newlyweds’ need to Jesus’ attention. When have you been an advocate for someone in need? How were you able to help? What could you do to make intercession a more active and effective part of your prayer life?

2. “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5) are the last words of Mary recorded in Scripture. Think of a time when you did something because you felt that Jesus told you to do it. Was it easy or difficult for you to obey him? What were the results?

3. The miracle at Cana shows Jesus’ kindness and concern for the bride and groom. Recall a situation when someone cared for your needs. How did their attention affect you? How did they reflect the face of Christ to you?

4. Jesus changed ordinary water into wine – in a plentiful quantity – at Cana. Write a prayer asking Jesus either to transform some “ordinary water” in your life into “good wine” (John 2:10) or to provide abundantly in an area of your life where you feel a lack or limitation.

5. The disciples “believed in him” after they had seen Jesus transform water into wine (John 2:11). What “signs” of God at work in your life have caused your faith to grow and deepen?


1. Think about how you and your family or friends celebrate special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, graduations, first Communions, and anniversaries. What could you do to make your celebrations more meaningful and more festive for your guests?

2. Reflect on the following Scripture passages to enhance your understanding of Jesus’ mission as the Messiah:

  How beautiful upon the mountains
   are the feet of the messenger 
    who announces peace,
  who brings good news,
   who announces salvation,
   who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
      – Isaiah 52:7

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
     – Matthew 9:35-36

[T]hey brought to [Jesus] all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered together around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
     – Mark 1:32-39

When [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
   because he has anointed me to bring good
    news to the poor.
  He has sent me to proclaim release to the 
   captives and recovery of sight to the blind, 
    to et the oppressed go free,
  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

– Luke 4:18-19 (see also Isaiah 61:1-2)


“God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

This week reach out to someone in a way that will communicate to him or her God’s personal love and care and will also reflect God’s abundant generosity.

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