Today’s gospel recounts the story of the wedding at Cana where Jesus famously turns water into wine. St. John tells us that there were six stone water jars, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. These are not small jars! In fact they weren’t meant for drinking, but contained large quantities of water for ceremonial washings. In listening to this story, naturally focus on the miracle of the wine. However, in today’s homily, I would like to focus more on the water.
Mary tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you,” and Jesus tells them to bring him about 180 gallons of water…now. Maybe this meant going to a well, or even a stream. Whatever the source of water, it could not have been easy to produce so much water on a moment’s notice. Yet, St. John gives us another seemingly insignificant detail that turns out to be of great importance. He tells us not only that the servants filled the jars, but “they filled them to the brim.”
I know I would have been tempted to maybe “sort of” fill the jars. After a dozen or so trips to get more water, I think maybe two thirds full or even half full would have seemed like plenty to me. But these servants don’t do that. They fill the jars “to the brim.” Now we see the importance. The servants didn’t know that Jesus was about the make the greatest wine the world has ever known. Imagine if that had only filled the jars half way. Jesus still works his miracle, but there is less than there could have been. Perhaps there would have even been regret on the part of the servants that they had only filled the jars half way.
The servants in the gospel have no regrets. They did everything Jesus told them just as Mary commanded, and they gave it their best. Sometimes God asks things of us that we don’t understand right now, that seem tedious or burdensome, like bring bucket after bucket of water not knowing what it’s all about. It’s not a coincidence that the miracle in today’s gospel takes place at a wedding. God is telling us the kind of relationship he wants with us. He wants to marry us! If he asks us something, something we might not understand, it’s because he loves us and wants us to be happy.
The question then is whether we trust this relationship God is offering us. When he asks us to do something, maybe something hard, maybe just repeated little things that seem pointless, how to we respond? The truth is that God is working a miracle right now with the story of our lives. Just as the reason for all the trips to the well was eventually made plain to the servants in the gospel, so too the reason for everything God asks us will eventually be made plain. The question is, will we fill our jars to the brim, or will we one day look back with regret, knowing that we gave God only half empty water jars.