The metaphor of marriage – God and his people

The metaphor of marriage imaging God’s relationship with the people of God is deep in the Hebrew Bible. Yhwh is to Israel as husband is to wife. Think of Hosea’s comparison of his troubled marriage with the story of God’s relationship with Israel. The oracles of Isaiah use this tradition with regard to Israel’s future (even messianic) restoration, as for example in this Sunday’s first reading, where the coming vindication of Jerusalem is portrayed as a wedding feast for God and his spouse ….

Jesus himself makes bold to apply the tradition to himself. When the Pharisees ask why Jesus’ disciples are not into extra fasting like those of the Baptist , he replies, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?” He continues the metaphor by speaking of his presence and ministry as “new wine” demanding new wineskins.

This background helps us appreciate the account of the wedding feast of Cana. Far more is going on here than an affirmation that Jesus “liked a good party” or was affirming the institution of marriage. Both are surely true. But in the Fourth Evangelist’s framework, the wedding feast at Cana is nothing less than the revelation of divinity in Jesus as Word made flesh.

Dennis Hamm, SJ