Unfortunately, the editors of the Lectionary omitted an important detail from today’s Gospel reading. The wedding feast at Cana is the first of seven miracles of Jesus recorded in the Gospel according to John. The seven miracles, called “signs” in the fourth Gospel, form an evangelization proclamation about baptism.
The baptismal imagery in this first miraculous “sign” is fairly obvious. The “six stone water jars . . . for Jewish ceremonial washings” refer to Christian baptism’s origins in Jewish purification rituals. (Jn. 2:6) The miraculous transformation refers to the fulfillment of Jewish beliefs about salvation, and the superior quality wine refers to the Messianic Banquet, a common image for the eschatological age. The setting of a marriage feast refers to the prophetic image of God’s People wed to God (see the first reading). The six miracles that follow this one build on the foundation of the transformation of water into wine. Each opens a further dimension of understanding the Christian Covenant in baptism.
In order to make clear his intent, the author of the Gospel includes an instructive detail at the beginning of the story of the wedding at Cana. As I mentioned above, the editors of the Lectionary chose to omit this detail. The author wrote, “On the third day, there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee.” (Jn 2:1) Everyone familiar with Hebrew religion and the Hebrew Scriptures would recognize immediately the significance of the statement that this event occurred “on the third day.”
After God liberated the Israelites from Egypt, Moses led the People to Mount Sinai. They camped at the foot of the mountain and Moses ascended the mountain to listen to God’s instructions. God told the People to prepare themselves for “the third day” of their stay at Mount Sinai; “for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.” (Ex 19:11) On the third day, God revealed God’s glory to the whole People and gave the Commandments of the Covenant to Moses.
The Gospel author begins the story of the wedding at Cana by saying that it occurred “on the third day” to indicate to readers that a theophany, a revelation of God’s presence, was about to occur. The author reinforces this point by concluding the story with the summary statement, “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory.” (Jn 2:11)
In the Scriptures, the word “glory” refers to God’s power to save God’s People. In John’s Gospel, God’s glory is revealed to the world, once and for all, in the death of Jesus on the Cross. The references to “the third day” and “his glory” form a literary inclusion, a set of brackets to hold the story details together; the author invites us to see the necessary relationship between the promises of the Sinai Covenant and the fulfillment of those promises in Jesus’ death.
The transformation of water into wine announced that God was initiating a new out-pouring of God’s Spirit and a new invitation to participate in God’s holy people. Not coincidentally, this Sunday marks a new beginning for our diocese. You are probably already aware that the diocese has retired the Annual Pastoral Appeal and replaced it with the Catholic Ministry Appeal.
The Annual Pastoral Appeal was a diocesan campaign that helped parishes pay the annual assessment. The annual assessment was an apportioned fee charged to parishes to support the diocesan offices, ministries, and activities. The Annual Pastoral Appeal assisted parishes to pay the annual assessment but, if the assessment wasn’t paid through the Annual Pastoral Appeal, it had to be paid from the weekly Offertory collection. Thanks to your generosity, All Saints usually met its goal; on the rare occasion that we had to make up the difference between Annual Pastoral Appeal donations and the assessment, the difference was very small.
The Catholic Ministry Appeal marks a significant change in the way that the diocese funds its offices, activities, and ministries. If you’ve read the information about the Catholic Ministry Appeal, you know that funding for diocesan operations will be divided among three distinct sources.
Beginning in July of this year, funding for the Bishop’s office and diocesan administration will be provided through a monthly tax on parish offertory revenue. On a monthly basis, parishes will send 2% of parish revenue to the diocesan chancery to pay for the Bishop’s office and his staff. In the past, these operations were funded through the Assessment/Annual Pastoral Appeal.
At the same time in July, the back-office activities of the diocesan chancery (accounting, human resources, insurance programs, building construction, etc.), will be funded by an endowment account established by the chancery. In the past, this was funded through the Assessment/Annual Pastoral Appeal, as well.
The new Catholic Ministries Appeal will do exactly what it says: it will fund the ministry offices in the diocesan chancery. Those offices include the Catholic Schools office, Religious Education for children and adults, Youth Ministry, and the like. Unlike the previous assessment, the monetary goal for the Catholic Ministry Appeal is not a bill that parishes must pay. This fundraising campaign is truly an appeal, an appeal for your support for the ministry activities of the diocese.
If this new funding structure is confusing to you, it is explained in detail on the diocesan website and in the messages that will continue to appear in the Sunday Bulletin.
Our parish goal for the Catholic Ministry Appeal is about $76,000. This isn’t a bill to pay; it is a goal to aim for. In light of your past generosity to APA, I expect we will exceed our goal easily. If you have contributed to APA in the past, I ask you to continue to support our diocese by making a pledge equal to your previous pledges. If you did not pledge to APA in the past, this is an opportunity to support diocesan ministries such as college campus ministry, the Vocations Office, the Lay Pastoral Ministry Institute, and Catholic Charities.
Jesus’ miracle of transforming water into wine proclaims the radical transformation that God offers us through baptism. As serious as the subject matter of this Gospel story is, it is often the topic of good-natured jokes. You’ve probably heard the joke about the Altar Server who was slurring his speech before Mass. The pastor smelled alcohol on the Altar Server’s breath and noticed an empty wine bottle in the Sacristy. The pastor asked, “Have you been drinking?” The Altar Server responded, “Only water.” The pastor asked, “Then why do I smell wine?” The Altar Server exclaimed, “Good Lord, He’s done it again!”
The diocesan ministries supported by the Catholic Ministry Appeal intend to bring the radical transformation promised in baptism to every corner of our diocese. At the end of this new Catholic Ministry Appeal campaign year, I would like to be able to look at the radical transformation produced by our diocesan ministries – transformation on the order of Jesus turning water into wine – and I would like to know that our parish played a significant role in that transformation by supporting the Catholic Ministry Appeal.
Because this campaign is new, and quite different from the Annual Pastoral Appeal, you will hear more about it over the next few weeks. During this time, I would ask you to pray for the campaign’s success and contribute to the campaign’s success by making a pledge.