“You have kept the best wine till now.”


Photo by Bill Williams on unsplash.com

Happy New Year! - I think it’s still not too late to hope!

So, actually, how exactly do you turn water into wine?
Just about this time a year ago, I was asked that question by a small boy at the back of a church a little way from here. He obviously felt that, being a priest, and having just preached on the topic I was supposed to know about these things.

Playing for time, I asked him why he wanted to know and he said that he wanted to know because he wanted to be able to do it himself.
‘Oh’, I said – “and why is that?”
Well, after a little discussion, we discovered that he had been giving this matter quite a lot of thought. And it wasn’t just that he thought it would be a really cool thing to be able to do, but that he knew wine was quite expensive and water was very cheap. So he thought he could make money by producing it very cheaply and easily. So he wanted me to give him the secret of how it was done. And he was quite the little entrepreneur!

So I started to try to explain that the turning of water into wine at Cana and all the other miracles that are recorded are signs given by Jesus to show that he was who he said he was – the Son of God. And those signs are recorded as stories in the Gospels in order that we too may feel confident in knowing that Jesus is the Son of God.

Well, I don’t know, but maybe I went on a bit too long, because the young boy – his name is Matthew by the way – cut me off and said “So in order to do this, you have to be the Son of God – OK, forget it.”

So, I am sorry that Matthew went away feeling that being the Son of God and turning water into wine were both things that are too difficult and beyond him. I hope that one day he may come to feel differently about both those things.

I was sad about that because what I really wanted to be able to say is that turning water into wine is just a small symbol of God’s action in the world to bring good out of evil. That to be a Christian is to be a Child of God. And to be a Child of God is to do whatever one can to bring good out of whatever evil human situations one finds oneself in life. And, just sometimes, that requires Christians to do things that seem humanly impossible – to achieve depths of love, trust and forgiveness that are uncommon in our human world and that come not from within us, but from Above.

Let me give a small example: a few years ago a militant atheist decided - as a publicity stunt - that he would deliberately steal a host - a piece of the Body of Christ which we celebrate, venerate and honour - and deliberately desecrate it in a video on You-tube.

A bishop was asked on the radio news to give his response. The reporter was, of course, hoping for a fulminating angry condemnation that would give the story “legs”. The bishop considered for a moment and then said he would like to make two points.
- The first is that this was obviously a deliberate attempt to provoke and when one is deliberately provoked, the single most important thing is always to respond with peace and love. Nobody ever died of being disrespected. But people have died - and even killed - as a result of allowing themselves to be provoked.

- The second is that - in Truth - this man had not desecrated the Eucharist; he had simply re-enacted it. We celebrate this Eucharist in everlasting memory of Jesus Christ who lived the most perfect of lives and who was murdered and whose body was desecrated by Roman soldiers – men incapable of recognising the presence and goodness of God in the world.

That, I believe is what we celebrate in our Sunday Eucharist – our commitment as Christians to follow Christ in making the best – the very best - of whatever we encounter in our lives. For these next seven days, we want to show the face of Christ in the world. Who knows what kind of dangers and the difficulties we may face. But the test of our Christianity is that we must bring good out of evil circumstances – we must be able to turn water into wine. If you see Matthew, ask him to give it a try. It may not make him as wealthy as Bill Gates, but it may make him rich in an even better way.

Paul O'Reilly SJ