Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
(1617 - 1682)
The Marriage Feast at Cana
Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Christ performs his first miracle, turning water into wine at the marriage feast at Cana. The painting was commissioned by Don Nicolas Omazur, a Flemish silk merchant who lived in Murillo’s hometown of Seville and who was his main patron.
He is shown with his wife in the centre and the work was therefore probably painted to celebrate and sanctify their own marriage in 1672.
The ornate costumes and the rich objects that adorn the feast reflect their wealth. In contrast, the miracle itself is shown as an everyday scene, with the servants filling seven large Sevillian water pots.
2 “Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ 3 He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ 4 They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her’. 5 But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate’.
10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery’.
13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it’. 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them”.
In last Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 9:38-48) Jesus gave us a lesson in generosity of spirit by validating the actions of the man who used his name to cast out devils. He told us about the importance of doing small and simple actions in his name. We also heard about the need to avoid causing the vulnerable (little ones) in society, to stumble into sin (scandalise). Finally, Jesus describes the path to God as our final destination.
In today’s Gospel we see the Pharisees putting Jesus to the test and asking his opinion about a man divorcing his wife.
While Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, the Pharisees approached him. They tested him concerning divorce with the question “is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Jesus in his answer invites them to recall what Moses said and what was written in Genesis about the original purpose of marriage.
What is God’s intention regarding marriage? Genesis explained it as a plan and call to experience fulfilment.
Schools of Thought on Divorce in the Time of Jesus
1. The School of Shammai promotes strictly that the only reason for divorce was
2. The school of Hillel promotes a much wider interpretation that even a spoiled
dish of food could be a reason for a woman to be sent away ...
In both schools, man is always the stronger one, the one making, changing and imposing the rules. Women on the other hand have little or no say. That is why, in the time of Jesus women hesitated to marry at all because marriage was so insecure and unfair.
Jesus’ Teaching on Marriage
Jesus’ answer to the Pharisee is a challenging one. Jesus wants the raise the matter to its original beauty. He defends the divine original dignity of having created wo/man in God’s image. The mind of God in creating male and female, is for happiness.
In his public life, Jesus sanctified marriage by accepting the invitation to the wedding at Cana. We also find him showing mercy towards the woman found in adultery not condemning her and inviting her to conversion.
The Teaching of the Church
Jesus’ teaching on the sanctity of marriage and on divorce may be a joyful message to those who receive from God the wonderful gift of a happy marital union, but a source of anguish for those whose attempt at marriage has failed.
Pope Francis, in ‘Amoris Laetitia’recently published (19 March 2016), invites Christian families “to be sign of mercy and closeness wherever family life remains imperfect or lacks peace and joy”. He offers “an invitation to mercy and the pastoral discernment of those situations that fall short of what the Lord demands of us”.
The Disciples want to hear more about this issue, as we can see in John’s Gospel, they recognize that Jesus speaks in a new and surprising way: “There has never been anybody who has spoken like him”.
Jesus challenging response to the Pharisees and his compassion reveal that we need not to be fatalistic about our sinfulness. He invites us to find in him the strength to be faithful by turning away from sin, and to fulfil the very things He commands with respect to marriage.
It is in the daily challenges of family relationships, that we experience the struggle to live out God’s design for human love –especially in the lifelong fidelity to another fallen and imperfect person-. Jesus’ compassion and understanding sets the bar for our approach to supporting and addressing couples whose marriage is in difficulty.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
May families never again experience
violence, rejection and division;
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Graciously hear our prayer.
Amen. (Pope Francis)
- “Because of the hardness of your hearts …”
This phrase used by Jesus will remind the Disciples of the Book of Exodus, in which God reveals to Moses that even sending the plagues could not change the hardened heart (read ‘mind’) of Pharaoh into a more compassionate one, to allow God’s People to leave Egypt . If we read the plague narratives this week (they begin in Exodus 7) we will realize that God in fact gets Pharaoh’s undivided attention and commands him to let Moses and the Israelites leave Egypt.
What does Jesus mean when He said “Because of the hardness of your hearts …”, to explain why Moses wrote the commandment that allows for divorce (under strict circumstances) in Deuteronomy 24?
- Has your heart ever been hardened?
Do you recall times when God may have been “squeezing” you to see if there was something in you that could respond to a call? To a mission? To compassion? To a particular person or even a need in the Church?
Use this week to be aware of the ways that God is getting your attention so that you can be ready to respond to God’s call in your life
 Genesis 2: 24: “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body”. John 2: 1-2: “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding”.  John 8: 10-11: “Jesus looked up and said to her, ‘Woman where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord’. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again’”.  Amoris Laetitia no. 5  Amoris Laetitia no. 6  John 7: 46