Lots were drawn and the newly conquered territory in the promised land was allocated to the remaining tribes of Israel. The land was split up fairly and efficiently without tribes greedily acquiring more than they needed: ‘The inheritance of the Simeonites was taken from the tribe of Judah, because Judah’s portion was more than they needed (v.9).
After the land had been divided into allotted portions the leader of the Israelites, Joshua, was given the town he had asked for, Timnath Serah (v.50). We need to remember to adequately reward our hard-working leaders and pastors.
The Israelites gave the priestly tribe, the Levites, thirteen towns to live in with pasture-lands for their extensive collection of livestock (21:8,19).
The Israelites founded six cities of refuge to where anyone who had accidentally killed someone could flee before they were killed in a blood vendetta. They could then face a fair trial in regards to the accident. We might be critical about our health and safety culture these days but as least we don’t need six cities to house all those accused of manslaughter. However, we have seen quite a careless attitude towards other people’s health recently. I was a very early adopter of a Covid mask as it made perfect sense to wear one when surgeons always wear a mask whilst operating. It would be manslaughter if we gave someone else fatal Covid just because we selfishly neglected to wear a mask or accept a vaccination. When we pray for our sins to be forgiven we pray both for things we have done and things we haven’t done to care for our fellow citizens.
Mary pointed out to Jesus that there was no wine left at the wedding at Cana (v.3). How embarrassing.
Jesus intimated that he was not going to help, ‘My time has not yet come’ (v.4). But Jesus never turns down a valid request for help.
Jesus converted a vast volume of water into the best wine as his first public miracle. The servants had to join in with his miracle by following his instructions exactly. They filled large jars with water to the brim and took some of the new wine out to take to the master of the banquet. They would have looked stupid if it was still water when he tasted it. They took a risk based on Jesus’ word. The master praised the bridegroom for his generosity in providing an abundance of even better wine at the end of the banquet rather than at the start. Rather than being embarrassed in front of his family and friends, the bridegroom’s reputation was enhanced. What a fantastic start to the couple’s married life. We should always invite Jesus to our wedding by holding it in his church. He knows all about marriage. He is the eternal bridegroom to the eternal church.
Christians have an uneasy relationship with alcohol. Many don’t drink at all. This story doesn’t really help as prodigious quantities of the best wine are produced so that people can have a massive celebration. Jesus loved a party. Alcohol is something we just have to keep a very tight rein on. It can easily take over our lives. I don’t tend to have it in the house unless I am holding a dinner party and then I will buy a specific bottle of wine just for that evening. I would never have a wine cellar – I would regard it as a challenge to empty it just as I challenged myself to empty our massive chest freezer full of ancient food during lockdown. There was frozen fish in there that was so old it might actually have been coelacanth. We should always be in control of ourselves and never actually drunk. If I was dining with Pentecostal friends, I would enjoy drinking grape juice with them. We shouldn’t make our guests feel uncomfortable. If I was dining with Catholic friends, I would have a glass of wine if I wasn’t driving. There often comes a time when things get so serious in our lives that we need a completely clear head and a good night’s rest. At these times, it is best not to drink at all. When Jesus was preparing to face the cross, he cleared away frivolous distractions: ‘Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God’ (Mark 14:25)
Of course the most marvellous transformation of wine is at the Last Supper when Jesus took the cup, gave thanks and said: ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:27-28). This is repeated at every Holy Mass, when the Holy Spirit changes ordinary wine into the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for all the faithful to drink. This has been wrecked by the Covid pandemic. The days of an entire congregation drinking from the same cup of Holy Blood seem long gone. Each drop contains Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity and so it can’t be put into hundreds of individual containers as traces would be left behind. Maybe this is why the devil allowed Covid to circulate freely to devastate Christian worship and the reception of the Blessed Sacrament.
Through the Holy Spirit working within us we can come up with new prophetic words, new interpretations of God’s word and new miracles. As in this wonderful song, we can pray to Jesus to bring new wine out of us. The best worship songs are serious prayers asking God to change our lives and work through us.
Jesus went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples (v.12). Of course, Jesus didn’t actually have any blood-related brothers. Mary, his mother, stayed a virgin all her life. She had been dedicated to the temple as a virgin by her parents, Joachim and Anne, at a very early age. It was her vocation to be a virgin for the whole of her life. Joseph, ‘her husband’, was an elderly man and had been asked by the temple authorities to be her guardian. Joseph had children by a previous wife and was a widower when engaged to Mary. These ‘brothers’ therefore had neither the same father as Jesus, as he was the son of God, nor the same mother. The world would have considered them as ‘half-brothers’ to Jesus. However, Jacob had twelve sons by 4 different women and they are described as brothers. The word ‘brother’ is often used for ‘half-brother’ in the Bible.
Jesus drove all the merchants out of the temple. It is amazing how many souvenir shops and market stalls congregate around a famous religious shrine. These locations can also attract some interesting characters. When tourists are queuing up outside the Vatican, they have to run the gauntlet of pickpockets who saunter up and down the queue looking for a distracted victim. Kathleen Beckman (p.300-301) warns that we should not linger or stare into the eyes of such people. She was cursed by an evil eye spell outside a cathedral by a woman selling trinkets and became paralysed as she knelt down to pray inside the cathedral. Fortunately, she was with a charismatic priest who prayed a deliverance prayer over her and she instantly recovered. Holy places can attract unholy people.
Jesus prophesied that his body (this temple) would be resurrected three days after he died. Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit if we have been born again through baptism.
Jesus was so empowered with the Holy Spirit he knew what was in each person’s heart through supernatural words of knowledge. Most employers don’t bother asking for references any more when interviewing candidates for a job. Many firms are scared of giving a negative reference – for fear they will be sued – and a glowing positive reference could mean that a current employer is trying to offload that particular member of the staff. Jesus was the best ever manager and excelled at recruiting disciples. Of course, Judas turned bad of his own freewill but he must have shown interior promise when Jesus first recruited him. No-one can hide the intentions of their heart from Jesus.
King David knew that God was his help and sustained him (v.4). He prayed to God to always hear him, save him and vindicate him.
In many of David’s psalms he asked for serious harm to come to his enemies but David lived in tough times and his life was often in mortal danger. He was often attached by strangers (v.2). We are more likely to be attacked by people we know.
We usually live in less risky circumstances and so it should be easier for us to pray for blessings on our enemies as Jesus commanded.
David had confident faith in God. He pledged to sacrifice to him and praise his good name in the future. God would eventually deliver him from all his foes and all his troubles (v.7).
We need to look back on how God has delivered us in the past to have full confidence in him repeating his saving miracles time after time in our future. God will never leave us or forsake us.
Image: Paolo Veronese, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons