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Sunday Pages: "Wedding at Cana"
A reading from the Gospel According to John
Yesterday, we went to my cousin John’s wedding. This was my mother’s side of the family, the Italian side, and we all gathered at a lovely country club in North Jersey on what turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous fall day.
During the toast, another of my cousins, Matt, surveyed the guests in the banquet hall and quipped: “It’s been a long time since I was in a room with so many Italians.” This was true. The only people in the joint who weren’t at least half Italian were my kids. “It’s nice.” This was also true. It was a fabulous wedding.
The newlyweds have been together—have lived together—since college. John is now 40 years old. And there has never been any doubt that he and his beloved are a couple, a unit, very much meant to be. It’s not like it’s been 20 years of on-again-off-again drama. Indeed, my cousin is one of the most low-key, laid-back, easy-going customers you’ll ever meet. The happy day was a long time coming.
While I won’t presume to guess why it took so long, one of the factors had to have been that gay marriage has only been legal in New Jersey since 2013, and in the nation as a whole since 2015. Why get married when you can’t get married? On top of the legalities, there was a comfort level that had to be achieved, what with the banquet hall full of Italians, many if not most of whom…well, let’s just say they voted for McCain over Obama in 2008, and leave it at that. This was an event that would have been unlawful ten years ago and unthinkable a generation ago.
But we are lucky to live in an enlightened time—with the Christofascist barbarians at the gate, ready to raze the city and send us back to the Middle Ages, it’s easy to forget this—in which it is possible for me to watch my cousin and his husband, two genuinely kind, generous, delightful people, radiate the happiness they richly deserve, and share in the moment with them.
Being around my family made me think of all those Sunday mornings I spent in Church, which called to mind one of the wackier Bible passages: the wedding at Cana. This story is not mentioned in the synoptic Gospels, only appearing in John, which is considerably more woo-woo:
And on the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were called to the marriage. And when they lacked wine, the mother of Jesus said unto Him, “They have no wine.”
Jesus said unto her, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.”
His mother said unto the servants, “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.”
And there were set there six water pots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, holding twenty to thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said unto them, “Fill the water pots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.
And He said unto them, “Draw some out now, and bear it unto the governor of the feast.” And they took it.
When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, not knowing from whence it had come (but the servants who drew the water knew), the governor of the feast called the bridegroom and said unto him, “Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine, and when men have drunk well, then that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine until now.”
This beginning of miracles Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.
This was always intoned with reverence in Church, and interpreted in the homily with great solemnity, but if you forget for a second that this is about the Messiah and just read the passage, the story is bonkers, and kind of funny, and also a rare glimpse into the relationship between the Son of God and his mom. This is how I interpret it:
Here’s Jesus at a wedding with His crew. It’s a fun time—so much fun that they quickly polish off all the booze. His mother is like, “There’s no more wine! You guys drank it all!” She’s literally a buzzkill, and Jesus is all, “Leave me alone, woman. It’s not My fault they didn’t have a cash bar.” But his mother gives him That Look—He can tell she’s pissed—so He lets out an enormous sigh and gets to work. He waves his hand over some jugs of water, turning the contents into not just wine, but primo shit. “Why were you holding out on us?” As the thirsty guests polish off that wine, everyone is like, “Jesus, dude, you’re the king!”
I’ve always liked that passage, because, first, it places Jesus in a universal setting: a wedding feast. He went to one two thousand years ago at Cana. I went to one yesterday in Upper Montclair. Sometimes things go sideways at wedding receptions—maybe they were stingy with the vino, maybe the tenderloin was undercooked and had too much garlic—but sometimes those things are what make the event memorable. Twenty centuries after the first of Jesus’s alleged miracles, we have no idea who got married in Cana that day. All we remember is that He turned water to wine. And that’s the second reason I dig this passage: Jesus employs his X-Men-like superpowers on something kind of frivolous. It would be like Superman using his heat vision to make popcorn. What it tells us is that Jesus approves of weddings, and drinking, and silliness, and fun. That’s a Jesus I can get behind.
I wonder: What would Jesus have made of the wedding feast I went to yesterday? Would the thoughtful bachelor who performed a miracle to make sure his friend’s party wasn’t spoiled really withhold his blessing, just because the couple tying the knot happened to both be guys? Would the unmarried 33-year-old who spent all his time in the company of other men really oppose gay marriage? Would the holy man whose primary command was to love each other really insist that same-sex love was invalid, or somehow less than? What would Jesus do, if He were at my cousin’s wedding? Somehow I don’t think He’d make a scene, ranting and raving about how it was Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, not Adam and Steve. He’d enjoy the cocktails (there was no lack of alcohol yesterday, I’m pleased to report) and smile benevolently upon us all, is WJWD.
The radical Catholics on the Supreme Court disagree. They are coming for Obergefell, which was opposed in 2015 by four of the nine Justices. Leonard Leo, an Italian Catholic from New Jersey, wants it overturned. So does Sam Alito, an Italian Catholic from New Jersey. So did Antonin Scalia, an Italian Catholic from New Jersey and their spiritual godfather. (That it is my own people doing this is particularly infuriating.) And unless there is some miracle—or the Dems pick up a few more Senate seats and expand the Court, which is pretty much the same thing—these so-called Christians will get what they want.
A generation from now, my grandkids will hear about John’s wedding. They will either say, “Wow, I can’t believe it took until 2015 to legalize gay marriage! That’s insane!”—the same way I regard women being granted suffrage only a hundred years ago. Or they will say, “Wow, I can’t believe the country was once open-minded enough to let that happen. It must have been nice.”
Drink up, Dear Reader. We’re almost out of wine. And unlike Jesus, Leonard Leo keeps the good stuff for himself.
Friday night was the first annual Halloween Special on The Five 8. Thanks to all of our special guests for coming to the party: Jamie Schler, Victor Shi, Allison Gill, Lou Neu, Melissa Jo Peltier, Ethan Bearman, Sandi Bachom—and, for the first time on screen, Gal Suburban and Chunk.
Photo credit: Jacobo Tintoretto, “Marriage at Cana,” 1561.