Sarah-Louise & David’s Wedding
16th August 2008
The First Sign
When St John the Evangelist is describing what happened at the wedding in Cana, when Jesus transformed the water into wine, he deliberately chooses the word ‘sign’ rather than ‘miracle’. Throughout his Gospel that word ‘Sign’ keeps on turning up over and over again.
That difference between a Miracle and a Sign is an important one.
A Miracle is meant to inspire wonderment in the minds those who witness it. It is a demonstration of Divine Power. God-made-man, Jesus Christ worked many miracles Himself , but he also enabled his followers to do so too. The Book of Acts tells us that ‘many signs and wonders were performed by the hands of the Apostles’ and these often had a profound effect on the minds of those who witnessed them.
But a Sign isn’t something just to be looked at. It then demands to be followed up. Whether it’s a road-sign which tells us how to get to Dublin, or a Danger! Keep Out! Sign which tells us that a building is unsafe to enter, it’s meant to encourage (or prevent) some action on our part, whether that action is to turn right rather than left to get to Dublin, or to do an about-turn and walk away from a structurally unsafe building.
In other words the purpose of a sign is not just to impress us, but to tell us to change direction.
In worldly people’s eyes, two people like Sarah-Louise and David is something quite ordinary and commonplace. In every Registry Office there’s a sign to the effect that ‘marriage is the union of one man with one woman for life, to the exclusion of all others’ [Full Stop]: and ‘Full-Stop’ just about sums it up.
But Christian Marriage is altogether different. Different, not because of where it takes place; but different because, like every supernatural sign or Sacrament, it leads on to something far more important than itself.
To understand where Holy Matrimony leads we need to look at the significance of what happened when the commonplace element of Water became Wine through the Sign which Jesus gave at the wedding in Cana.
‘Fill the jars with water’, said Jesus to the servants. And they filled them to the brim. This suggests that whatever action this particular sign was meant to achieve on the part of the servants, its instructions needed to be carried out thoroughly and to the letter. God made Man and Woman, and he created Marriage. Therefore (as it says on the package) ‘for best results, follow the Maker’s instructions’.
The first result of the servants following the Maker’s instructions was that the water (something very commonplace and uninteresting at a wedding-banquet) was transformed into something extra-ordinary, namely wine, which was the very thing all the guests really wanted. So we are right to expect that the effect on David and Sarah-Louise of getting married will be nothing less than a transformation for them both.
But there is second, even more remarkable transformation which happens whenever a man and a woman are joined together by God into Husband and Wife. Listen again to those words which were read at the beginning: ‘It is God’s purpose that, as husband and wife give themselves to each other in love throughout their lives, they shall be united in that love as Christ is united with His Church.
So the union which Sara-Louise and David are now entering is a ‘significant’ one. Notice that first four letters of the word ‘significant’ are S-I-G-N – the very word we were thinking about at the beginning.
The transformation which is achieved by Holy Marriage, is nothing less than a replica (or mini-version of ‘the Mystical Union that is between Christ and His Church’. Once again we find ourselves witnessing the miraculous transformation of the natural into the Super-natural, the ordinary into the Extra-ordinary, which lies at the heart of every Sacrament., whether Baptism, the Mass or (in this case) Holy Marriage.
Most of the guests at the wedding, St John tells us, simply didn’t have a clue where the wine had come from. They just happened to recognize that it was something far superior to what they might have expected to be served with at a village Reception. And that, perhaps was all they cared about. They just didn’t take the trouble to examine the Sign to see where it was directing them so they didn’t follow it through to the end.
But the servants who did what Jesus told them did know the secret. Jesus of course knew the secret. We can be fairly sure that the Bride and Bridegroom at Cana would have found out that secret sooner or later.
St John and his fellow apostles knew the secret, too: for, as he writes, this is the first sign that Jesus did, and manifested forth his glory. And his disciples believed in Him.
Our prayer for Sara-Louise and David on this happy occasion must surely be that they too will follow that Sign right the way through in the direction it is pointing, and discover the true, secret, significance of what God has brought about through them and in them during the rest of their life together upon earth.
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