Meditation of the Reading for Kothine Sunday (St. John 2:1-11)
(Originally Published in ICON)
Metropolitan Yuhanon Mor Meletius, Thrissur
The Gospel reading for Kothine Sunday is from the Gospel according to St. John Ch.2 Vs. 1-11. This passage talks about what happened at the marriage feast in Cana in Galilee. Cana is 9 km. north east of Nazareth in the foot of Mount Tabor. This, according to John, was the first ‘sign’ Jesus performed during His earthly ministry.
To John every thing had a futuristic significance. That is why he used the term ‘sign’ instead of ‘miracle’ a term used by other three Gospel writers for miraculous works of Jesus. Miracle is some thing happened in the life of a person or people or on a thing and which ends there itself. On the other hand a ‘sign’ as the word itself may suggest, has a futuristic implication. To John, what Jesus did during His earthly time was not just for a person or people or a thing, rather some thing that had implication and relevance till His second coming.
It is with this backdrop we are trying to understand the phrase “my hour” in John 2:4. Verse 4 has been used by certain sectarian ‘christian’ community people to talk about Jesus’ so called disrespect toward St. Mary. This is mainly because of the Malayalam translation of the Greek word ‘gunai’ as ‘stree’. It may look in Malayalam as a word of disrespect. But it has no such connotation in Greek language. Rather it certainly has a respect inherent in it and so can be translated as ‘lady’ in English or ‘bhavati’ in Malayalam. This argument about the so called disrespect to them is supported by two further phrases in the passage. One, ‘what is it between us’ and two, ‘my time has not yet come’.
The first phrase in Greek, ‘ti emoi kai soi’ can only be translated as ‘what has it to do with us?’. Jesus always thinks of himself in terms of his role in the total salvation of the creation. Same was Jesus’ attitude expressed in His reply to the Greeks who paid a visit to Him (12:23ff) which may look as if out of context. Again when Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, same was His style (Ch.3). So it is evident that Jesus used that phrase not to mark His disrespect toward His mother, but was using the occasion to take the matter further.
This is exactly what we see in the phrase “My hour has not come yet”. The word ‘hour’ (Greek – hora) in John’s Gospel has a definite meaning. It is the ‘appointed time’ of Jesus’ glorification through his death, burial and resurrection. Mary was talking about shortage of wine in the family. Jesus knew that not only just one family, but the whole human kind was in short of the effect of ‘wine’. It becomes even more clear in other instances where the word ‘hour’ is used (7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1). This can be compared with Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. This ‘hour’ for Jesus is the ‘hour’ to pour out ‘real wine’ which truly intoxicates humans and can be testified as the best. This is the only wine which will truly remove and make irrelevant all shortages. The events related to that, burial and resurrection are after effect of that pouring out of true wine on the cross. John 6:53-56 clearly states the effect of that wine in the life of people. It is noteworthy that though John refers to Jesus’ supper with His disciples, he omits the blessing of the bread and wine in the narration (Ch. 13). The breaking of the body and pouring of the blood through the slaughtering of ‘the lamb of God that bear the sin of the world’ (Jn.1:29, 36) happened exactly on the day of the slaughtering of the Passover lamb on the Jewish Passover day. Consequently Jesus’ supper, to John, was not a Jewish Passover, rather it was eaten on the previous day, the day of Jewish anticipatory Passover day (13:1). This is why Syriac tradition uses not un-leavened bread of Jewish Passover (Ex. 12) for H. Qurbono, rather of anticipatory Passover bread which is leavened. So what Jesus did in Cana was not some thing which was not an end in itself, but a sign that pointed to some thing that was to happen later with a far reaching relevance and implication.
This calls us to put this phrase ‘my hour’ in perspective. We are called to be Jesus’ disciples (17:20), friends (15:14,15) and brothers and sisters through being the children of His Father (8:42,47). This makes it obligatory on our part to do things in our lives, just as Jesus did, as symbols which will have relevance and implication toward a greater cause. Nothing thought, said and done by us shall be an end in itself. It is thought, said and did with a better and greater goal of salvation or making the lives of every one liberated. This was where first human fell short. They thought what they did in terms of eating the fruit will make just them one like god. God was planning to make every human one with and like God. This is the challenge placed before us, but not by eating a fruit or doing some thing just for one or few. He planned it in such a way that it can be achieved through participation with God and with one another and for the sake of all. Every thing in our life has to have a futuristic salvific goal. This is why, unlike the western churches, we have not limited the number of sacraments to seven. To us any thing we think, say or do has a sacramental value, and sacrament is not, just the visible sign of invisible grace for us (this is what the western churches would say). It is for us, entering in to the presence of and participation with God the Father in Holy Spirit through the Son, Christ our Lord. This is what we are called for. Make nothing final, but find a futuristic salvific relevance to every hour in our life. Every ‘hour’ (specific time) in our lives is an hour for future. The question is, blessings I or you as an individual or small community receive from God, as in the case of the people in the feast in Cana, will it be a sign of the blessing that every one will receive from God? Will we make the blessings we receive from God a sign of the salvific blessings others get from Him? We need to share the effect of blessings we receive from God with others and with future generations!