Taste and see that the Lord is sweet
He let his glory be seen. The miracle at Cana is an epiphany of Christ. Jesus lets his glory be seen. We taste his divinity, and it delights us. In Psalm 100 we hear the phrase The Lord is sweet and elsewhere in Scripture the invitation comes Taste and see that the Lord is sweet. Holy Communion, sweet sacrament divine, also teaches us that the Lord gives himself to us in a way that is nourishing and cheering. ‘The Lord is sweet’. Too sweet? The connoisseurs among us might have taken issue with the steward who judged that the best wine had been kept until the end: something very good may be offered quite early. Our own spiritual life may exhibit this truth. Were we more faithful to the law of God in our earlier days? Were our prayers more heartfelt? Was our discipleship once more energetic, more sincere, more devout? Do whatever my Son tells you counselled Our Lady (John 2.4): perhaps we were better at taking that advice when we were younger. All the more reason then to prize such epiphanies as are permitted us now. ‘Jesus lets his glory be seen’. If, then, tired, preoccupied, worried, distracted, sad, as we are ‘the Lord lets his glory be seen’ by us then it is indeed the best wine kept until this moment to be savoured. Let us enjoy the Lord. Let us allow him to cheer us and to sustain the world. And let us allow him to delight in us. As Isaiah says: your God will rejoice in you. (62.5) Indeed ‘The Lord is sweet’.
The question comes again, though, is Jesus too sweet for our mature sensibility, our refined palate? To the criticism that our faith is over sentimental or too sugary, we can reply that the wine which Christ pours out so generously, so abundantly and to such good effect is his own blood. When Jesus says ‘My hour has now come’ He accepts his chalice and dies for our sins on the cross of Calvary. His blood, the best wine, is poured out from his sacred heart, pierced by the lance, to bring about our salvation. There is nothing sweet about the sufferings of our Saviour. Nor is there anything sugary about the difficult lives which his disciples have lived ever since. We are all the time imitating Him, doing what he commands, being faithful to his loving heart. In many ordinary agonies comes the temptation to allow the chalice to pass by: and such is the unsentimental impact of Jesus on his disciples that those many chalices are every day accepted and drunk to the lees.
The particular way that the Spirit is given to each one is for a good purpose. (1Corinthians 12.6). As disciples we drink the cup poured out for us by Christ confident that it will cheer us with his joy, that it will sustain us for his work, and that it will carry us happily towards our place in God’s providential plan in which his holy will and our deepest desires come together.
He let His glory be seen. The epiphany at Cana is in the marriage that took place as well as in those brimming jars. The divine sweetness which we detect and honour and delight in is in the commitment of the couple as well as in the celebration rescued from a catastrophic shortage. The Gospel tells us nothing about the man and woman who were married that day at Cana. They had invited Jesus. They had invited Our Lady. They had invited the disciples. They are everyman and everywoman. We commit ourselves, all of us, to God and to other people. We try, with the grace of God, to live faithfully and lovingly and fruitfully. We summon Christ and the court of heaven to witness our commitment. We seek the advice of Jesus, Our Lady and the saints as to how to live out our commitment today.
We learn slowly and progress at a snail’s pace. For example, we receive baptism, which is itself another epiphany. However the full meaning of our being baptised can escape us for a time. The sacrament can be a best wine kept until the end. It was poured early but is only now properly savoured? The Lord is sweet. To our expression of our deepest desires and commitments, to our Cana, comes Christ, with this holy mother and the apostles and the Church. Does it delight us? It is hardly too sweet. The living out of heart-felt commitments is full of duty and perseverance and even suffering. Fidelity is not sentimental or sugary. Yet the epiphany at Cana is a revelation of joy. The marriage is being truly celebrated. The wine, after an initial hiccup, is abundant, lavishly so. The distinguished guests bring the atmosphere and the delights of heaven. God is sweet.
The guests had no idea where the wine came from (John 2.7). Epiphanies of the Lord can easily baffle us. Invited to play our part we can get things very wrong. The doors of the inns of Bethlehem are easily shut. An evil-doing king like Herod can readily inquire about star and child for all the wrong reasons. The divine approval expressed over the waters of the Jordan may be inaudible to us. At Cana, the celebration seemed doomed since they had run out of wine. We can easily retreat disappointed too early in the story. The best really is at the end. The Lord does not always reveal himself to us at the moment we judge most needful. Some patience is required for the spiritual life. We must prepare to recognise our Lord and we must train ourselves to find him sweet. The miracle of Cana solicits our joy: this sweet holy joy is to be had from God only. Jesus gives signs. God teaches us to love him in the good things, in the beloved persons and in the commitments to which we are faithful. In tough love there is some sweetness because it is love. And in our disappointments, our failures and in our emptiness there is, surprisingly, also a hint of God. There can be always, even at the worst moments be some of God’s sweetness because he is always ready to fill up the empty jars with himself. The Lord fills our emptiness with his goodness, with his divinity and with his joy.
The sweetness of the Lord is His goodness. It does not cloy. This sweetness reveals the humanity and the divinity of Christ. Our joy at his presence in our life is sustaining: it is Eucharistic. Jesus is the best-kept-until-the end because although he accompanies us through the whole of our life, his aim is to bring us at last to the heavenly banquet. Our present emptiness reminds us of how he emptied himself for us. Our present abundance shows us how his divine generosity is already lifting us up.
Peter Gallagher SJ