The next day the whole village turned out for the festivities. The air was rich with the smells of different foods and everyone, including the man, stood around the vat saying how good the wine was going to taste. Well the morning turned into the afternoon and everyone was ready to taste the wine. The mayor of the town came out and spoke of the sacrifice everyone had made to bring the wine that all would share. Then the crowd held its breath as the mayor took up the hammer to drive in the tap and let the wine flow. It was a mighty swing, the tap went in...and water poured out. You see, it was not just the one man who justified his actions but the whole town, for all had brought water and not wine. Each was convinced that he had it worse than the others and so could get away with doing less.
How ironic, in light of this story, that the first miracle of Jesus in the Gospel of John is the changing of water into wine, while the townspeople of the story manage to do the opposite. The miracle at the wedding of Cana is a miracle not just because water became wine, but because polluted water became the best wine that the steward had ever tasted. Jesus took the accumulated dirt and debris of human life and transformed it into something transcendent and sweet. While the people of the town let the debris of daily human life overwhelm their thoughts and so the transcendent became mundane.
Jesus is able to make things new because he correctly understands the nature of sacrifice, his own and in general. He acknowledges throughout his ministry, both in what he says and what he does, that there is an inherent obligation first to God then to each other. The prime example is of course the “greatest commandment” and the second, “which is like it” (Matthew 22:36-39). Christ shows that commitment to God cannot be halfway; if it is then something will be between us and God. Similarly, love for the “neighbor” cannot be partial either, but must be as strong as love [preservation] of self because that which is loved receives our full attention, “where your treasure is there is your heart” (Matthew 6:21).
The world, which knows him not (John 1:10), does not understand this level of commitment and sacrifice. Adam fell because he sought to attain “godhood” without participation in God’s plan; Saul failed as king because he forgot that the kingship belonged to God and not Saul; the Israelites continually fell away because they forgot sacrifice and coveted what the other nations had. Like the people of the story we all too often let worries and notions of what is needful, based on knowledge of this world, prevent us from meeting the most important of duties, love. St. Paul said that love endures all things, believes all things, hopes all things, love never fails. Love is an obligation that knows no boundaries. It is an obligation whose only burden is faith in the worthiness of the other. That is the sadness of the Village on that day of joy, while each looked only to his own needs, the community suffered as a whole.
This is also the sadness for the Church today. We have forgotten to think as a community sharing the joy of the feast. Yes, we love, but conditionally. I can love you today God, but only between 2 and 4 because the kids have ballet and soccer; I want to give/do more than that but others can give/do more than me. Until one day we all wake up and approach the chalice and “poof,” the wine is now just water and the feast is in the next town over.